Thursday, June 12, 2014

Alumnus plays key role in new recreation area

After earning a bachelor’s degree in finance and economics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Steve Taylor discovered something.

He didn’t really enjoy the business environment after working in sales and accounting. “I felt that something was missing,” Taylor said.
Steve Taylor played an integral role in planning the borough's newest recreation area.

“I like being outside and when I found there was an outdoor recreation program at UAF, I met with Peter Fix and signed up.”

Taylor earned a master’s of science degree in natural resources management, “a very good move,” he declared. “I am absolutely glad I did it.”

He enjoyed the small classes and personal interaction with professors. “Because it’s a small program I was in classes with forestry and agriculture students, which added an interesting perspective. That was cool; I liked that.” He enjoyed Peter Fix’s teaching style. “He was very thorough, but laid back. He got the point across. He was passionate about what he does.”

At UAF he learned about the controversies inherent in recreation management. “I came into it naively thinking everything in recreation was rosy but that’s certainly not the case,” Taylor said. His thesis was on the Wrangell- St. Elias National Park.

The networking he did through the school has helped his career. He still sees some of those same agency people in his work today as a Fairbanks North Star Borough Parks and Recreation project coordinator. “My degree helped educate me in the field I wanted to work in,” he said. “It opened a lot of doors for jobs.”

Taylor has worked for the borough for 2008. His latest project has been the new Tanana Lakes Recreation Area, which officially opens June 13. The park, located at the southern end of Cushman Street near the Tanana River, has swimming beaches, trails, boat launch and picnic pavilion. Admission is free.

When work began, “it was pretty much a mess,” Taylor said. “There were burned out old cars; it was the end of the road dumping zone and a party spot.”

Watching the park evolve has been amazing, Taylor said. “I was coordinating the volunteer efforts but now we have full-time seasonal staff and it has shaped up quickly. It’s super exciting to see it open.”
Taylor loves his job because he is given a lot of latitude to work on projects he feels are important. Not only has he been involved in park construction and renovation, but has worked with user groups and maintained relationships with users. “It keeps you on your toes,” he said.

“The public planning process should never be taken for granted,” he said. “Sometimes you think a project is a slam dunk and then everyone has different opinions. We approach all projects carefully.”
Another challenge is funding. “It’s always an issue. This is a fairly conservative community and we don’t have deep pockets so we have to do projects effectively and creatively. We want to have high-quality parks and facilities for our communities.”

In his free time Taylor enjoys cross country skiing, canoeing, working on the family home and spending time with his wife Maria and 2-year-old son Oliver.

The pavilion at Tanana Lakes Recreation Area is sure to get lots of public use.

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