Wright City's new parks director focusing on ball fields, improvements


NEW PARKS DIRECTOR — Wright City Parks Director Josh Cole took charge of the department in late May. He’s aiming to revitalize aging sports fields and the surrounding parks with “a little investment and a lot of effort.” Adam Rollins photo.
By: 
Adam Rollins
Staff Writer

It’s been almost two decades since Wright City had a new parks director. Recently appointed to the job, Parks Director Josh Cole said he sees sports provided by the parks as a way to build the Wright City community.

Cole was appointed parks director in May, following the unexpected death of Curt Kehoe. Cole was recruited earlier this year as assistant director, intended to eventually take over after Kehoe’s planned retirement.

Despite being thrust into the lead early, Cole said he’s had time to identify priorities for how he can improve city parks.

“The larger ball diamond at Ruge (Park) ... needs help. It’s always having issues with rocks. You can spend days picking rocks out of there,” Cole commented.

He’s now investing in new equipment to restore that field to something the community can be proud of and happy to play on. The ball fields at Ruge Park are core to what the park provides for the community, he said.

“A community that has a good baseball program ... or any type of sports program that is good, helps the community come together” Cole said.

Improvements to the baseball dugouts, surrounding park features, and overall appearance of the park round out Cole’s plans for Ruge. He said with a lot of effort, those tasks can be accomplished on a responsible budget.

Return to Wright City

Cole came to the Wright City Parks Department after two years with the larger Chesterfield parks system, and before that a background in landscaping.

But Cole’s history is in Wright City. The 41-year-old grew up in town, playing sports in the same programs that Kehoe helped run decades ago. His family returned to Wright City in October, and when a job opened with the parks department, he didn’t hesitate to take it.

It’s been a challenge for Cole to step into the job at the same time COVID-19 hit and put a stop to many park programs. Still, Cole said he’s focused on making improvements that will make the parks more attractive for next year’s programs, visitors, and possibly future community members.

“It benefits the entire city to have good parks,” Cole commented. “People visit your city for the parks. Once they see your parks, then they say, ‘What else has this town got?’”

Future for parks

Once the improvements at Ruge Park are done, Cole said the next plan is to replace the playground at Diekroeger Park. He commented that the swingset there is the same that he played on as a child decades ago.

But the biggest plans are at a future park on Westwoods Road, which has been in the works for several years.

Cole said a large athletic complex at the 62-acre park will allow Wright City to host tournaments, which could provide a huge revenue boost for future programs and improvements. He said that’s been a goal for the park since before he started.

“Tournament play is huge right now. It’s the biggest I’ve seen since I started playing ball when I was a kid,” Cole said. That presents an opportunity to collect fees for use of fields by out-of-town clubs, he explained, but only when Wright City can provide quality fields that will attract them.

Cole said he also plans to expand outreach with the community so that Wright City residents can provide their input and be connected with what their parks have to offer.

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