CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman Parks, Recreation & Sports Tourism (CPRST) on Tuesday, Oct. 1 will bid a fond farewell to Nathan Anderson, the agency’s executive director for the last five years. After announcing his resignation in early August, he worked with the agency’s board on a plan for a smooth transition that kept him here through September. He will continue to serve as a consultant for a short term on the other side of the transition, and then he will be on to the next chapter of his story in Nashville in November.
Since Anderson’s hiring in the summer of 2014, CPRST has seen substantial growth through:
- Improvement and upgrading of neighborhood parks throughout the city
- Creation or expansion of special events by CPRST or agency partnerships including Oktoberfest, Strawberry Festival, Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting, Dinner on First, 2nd Fridays and others
- Increasing accessibility to diverse populations through facilities like the Connected Playground at Ingle Park
Anderson’s last year will be remembered for two major developments:
- The announcement of the construction of a multi-use sports and event facility at the old Marvin’s location on Main Avenue, which will create a contiguous recreation corridor through southwest Cullman including Heritage Park, the new facility, Cullman Wellness & Aquatic Center, Field of Miracles, Donald Green Senior Center and Ingle Park.
- Accreditation through the National Recreation and Park Association’s Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA). Cullman became the first accredited system in Alabama and one of only 178 across the country. Anderson said, “This process has made us more mindful in handling the entrusted resources of our community. Using the data and insight gathered from the patrons of our parks and facilities, we have grown more intentional with the development of parks, facilities and programs.”
The Tribune talked with Anderson about his time at CPRST and his upcoming move.
What do you see as the biggest change at CPRST during your time there?
“Cullman Parks, Recreation & Sports Tourism has been considered a leader amongst its peers for many years; however, five years ago when I started, we felt there were some fundamental needs for improvement with the foundation of our organization’s operations and many critical facility/park improvements that needed to be addressed. Looking back, we’ve addressed each of those needs in five short years. The CAPRA accreditation process revealed the weaknesses in our foundation, so our team could make meaningful changes to our operation, planning and the way we serve our community. With these changes in place we can continue to grow and build on this foundation for decades to come. Also, we are proud to report that we have improved all our major facilities, reconstructed most of the neighborhood parks and are currently giving Heritage Park a much-needed facelift that will carry it for the next 20 years. Art Park will be finished soon, and plans are underway to continue the small park renovation plan with the redesign of Eastside Park and Nesmith Park.
What things are you proudest of from your time there?
“By working with the Cullman Parks, Recreation & Sports Tourism team, park board, mayor, council and community, we have grown so much and accomplished great things together. Most recently, completing the daunting task of CAPRA national accreditation and finishing the accreditation as the first agency to achieve this in our state’s history.”
What are you looking forward to in Nashville, and what will your official duties entail?
“I will be the CEO of a very successful and rapidly growing entertainment and logistics company. In many ways, it will be a role similar to what I’ve been doing as the CPRST executive director. This is a great opportunity and adventure for my family and me.
“I’m looking forward to taking all that I’ve learned while serving this community and working with the incredible CPRST team and applying it in a different field. I love taking on new challenges!”
Based on the direction CPRST has gone in the last five years, where do you see it in five more?
“Great things are in store for CPRST. We have experienced tremendous growth recently, and I have no doubt that the success we’ve experienced over the last five years will continue far into the future. We are blessed to have many talented, dedicated individuals at CPRST working diligently to ensure the continued success for generations to come in Cullman.”
City officials react
Mayor Woody Jacobs told The Tribune, “Nathan has been a great asset to the city of Cullman and the Cullman Parks, Recreation & Sports Tourism department. We are truly sorry to see him go.
“He has helped grow and expand the department during his five years here. It seems appropriate he will start at his new job only a week after the Cullman park program became the first park department in Alabama to earn a national accreditation from the National Recreation and Parks Association.
“Nathan’s vision allowed the Cullman programs and facilities to always be considered among the best in America.”
Cullman Economic Development Agency Director Dale Greer said, “Quality of life is a critical element to any community having a successful economic development program. Nathan Anderson took a department and agency that was already highly regarded in park and recreation circles and expanded the programs, services and events at Cullman parks and rec to provide even more opportunities for people living here and those considering relocating to Cullman. The quality of the programs and facilities, coupled with the professionalism of the staff, made it a great selling point for our community. His energy and drive made all of us better.”
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