Independence Key To Parks’ Success

Oglebay and Wheeling parks have expanded and improved by leaps and bounds since 1972, when Roland “Ron” Hobbs became one of the Wheeling Park Commission’s five members. His 41 years of dedication in the post have played a major role, along with those of other commissioners and Park Commission executives, in the system’s success.

With Hobbs’ decision to retire have come well deserved plaudits for his work.

Fortunately, his successor, Joan Stamp, has a long record of service to her community and state. Clearly, she will be an asset on the Park Commission.

Stamp’s love for the park system has deep roots, both because of her immediate family’s enjoyment of the facilities and her heritage. Stamp’s grandfather, Arthur Stifel, was a founding member of the Park Commission.

Congratulating Hobbs on his years of dedication and anticipating years of good service from Stamp gives us reason to remark on the success of the park system.Since its inception in the mid-1920s, the park system’s record of stewardship and improvement has been impressive. In part that is because of people such as Hobbs and Stamp – and, again, many others who have guided and managed the parks.

But the efforts would not have been fruitful had the commission, established by state law in 1935, not been an independent body.

While the parks are owned by the city of Wheeling, the commission operates independently.

Members are free to do what they believe is best for the parks – without the impediments that can come from municipal government involvement.

In large measure because of that independence, the Park Commission has been able to raise millions of dollars to provide endowments and facilities benefitting area residents. Much of that financial support would not have been forthcoming had the park system been tied up in city politics.

As recreational gems and centers of economic development and community life, the parks are unrivaled, even in much larger, more prosperous municipalities – where mayors and city councils often are in control.

Over the years there has been pressure from some Wheeling city officials for more control over the parks. But it has been resisted, and Oglebay and Wheeling parks have grown enormously in their appeal because of that.

Maintaining their self-determining nature and freedom from city politics will ensure the parks are a real treasure for generations to come.