Ridgefield’s new parks manager has a background in community-building, which is something he plans to do in his new role.
Corey Crownhart was introduced to the Ridgefield City Council, Oct. 26. He’s been on the job since Oct. 4, and only a month in, he said he’s already heard many stories about the history of the city and its parks.
“Everyone in town has just been so kind,” Crownhart said.
Crownhart comes from the world of nonprofits, most recently as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Idaho alliance director. In his eight years with the Boys & Girls clubs, Crownhart served a number of roles, ranging from being in the clubs themselves to lobbying and community organizing, he said.
One highlight from Crownhart’s time working with the Boys & Girls Clubs in Spokane County was when he orchestrated food delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic to support students locked out of buildings at the start of remote learning.
Crownhart said, within 24 hours, the club set up an operation to serve the students.
“We had a full kitchen. We fed the kids every day, and so one of the first thoughts we had was, ‘Well, what do we do with all this food?’ ” Crownhart recounted.
Through support from a nearby school and others in the community who learned about what was happening, “We were able to send every kid who came to school on that last day home with three bags full of groceries,” he said.
He said his experience in community-building roles will translate well to working as parks manager.
“When I think about parks, I think about the spaces where we bring people together,” Crownhart said. “When I think about trails, it’s the way we connect communities that are separate from each other.”
During Crownhart’s introduction to the council, Ridgefield Public Works Director Chuck Green commented that Crownhart beat “a rather impressive list of candidates for the position.”
Of particular interest to Green was Crownhart’s years of experience as a construction engineer for the U.S. Army, which he said will help when looking at parks projects. Green added Crownhart has a background in disability rights, something he believes will be beneficial in addressing accessibility in the city’s parks and trails.
Crownhart said “the secret is out” when it comes to Ridgefield’s attractiveness to new residents.
“I think our challenge and our opportunity is how do we build out our parks and trails in ways that preserve our outdoor spaces, cultivate our outdoor spaces and showcase our community in a meaningful way,” Crownhart said.
Crownhart said Ridgefield residents have pride in their outdoor spaces and the city’s small-town feel. His goal is to create parks, trails and recreational programs that reflect that pride.
Ridgefield’s number of creeks, hills and the namesake ridges create potential for parks that use those natural features, Crownhart said. Developing Ridgefield’s trails fits thematically with his past work.
“My roles have always focused in on finding ways to create connection and bring people to the table,” Crownhart said.
Getting an idea on what that work will look like will mean meeting with city officials, leaders of local organizations and the community as a whole.
“It just comes down to spending time with people face to face and seeing what their actual experience is like,” Crownhart said.