On her last day as Oak Island Parks and Recreation Director, Rebecca Squires made the all-too-fitting choice to inspect the newly remodeled Ocean Education Center as well as check on crowd at the popular summer concert series across the street.
In one sense, these events, like many others, are Squires’ babies. She and the parks and rec crew helped start them, staff them and build them up. Now they are at least mostly grown and embraced as town traditions.
Oak Island had a decent recreation center when Squires arrived almost 19 years ago. Now, the island has a plethora of programs that stretch far beyond the crowded walls of the Recreation Center and is a presence at events on the beach, at exercises classes indoors and out, in the marshes and Davis Canal, on the shores of the beach, and in busses on their way to places like Fort Caswell and Lake Mattamuskeet.
The list of responsibilities she and her staff have taken on is long and applies to all age groups. They include establishing a skateboard park, surfing lessons, sailing camps, sports programs for youth and adults, fishing derbies and classes, kayaking events, and the seasonal farmers market - not to mention the large annual Easter, Halloween, and Christmas events.
The department has also been involved with operation of the Par 3 golf course at South Harbour.
“When I came here, there were not a lot of programs,” Squires said. “I’m happy that we’ve added them.”
So are residents and visitors alike.
She noted the town had acquired and improved several parks, such as Veterans Park off the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and to Middleton and Bill Smith parks.
“Veterans Park is a million-dollar piece of property and it’s well-used,” Squires said. “These improved parks will be here long after I’m gone.”
A group of island residents and members of the recreation department staff publicly thanked Squires last Friday before the start of the Summer Concert Series event began with a proclamation and a plaque. Many on hand at Middleton Park signed a banner in her honor.
“Her tireless efforts leave a lasting legacy for our community to enjoy for years to come,” the proclamation stated, in part.
Squires encouraged those in attendance to continue to support parks. She said that, at the town’s suggestion, residents formed a nonprofit group called the Friends of Oak Island Parks, and said that’s just one way to help.
“Please support your local parks, wherever you are from,” she told the crowd.
Squires also said this thought was among the things that has always motivated her:
“Parks bring people together.”