Pictured is Liz McKinley, newly-hired Warsaw Parks Department recreation director, in her office Wednesday afternoon. McKinley replaces Staci Young, who will become Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer’s assistant to replace Michelle Bormet, who is retiring. Photo by Jennifer Peryam, Times-Union
Pictured is Liz McKinley, newly-hired Warsaw Parks Department recreation director, in her office Wednesday afternoon. McKinley replaces Staci Young, who will become Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer’s assistant to replace Michelle Bormet, who is retiring. Photo by Jennifer Peryam, Times-Union
Yoga in the park, paddle board competitions and a training class for young triathlon participants are all ideas from newly-hired Warsaw Parks Department’s Recreation Director Liz McKinley.
McKinley replaced Staci Young, who will become Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer’s assistant when Michelle Bormet retires at the end of August.
McKinley, who comes from South Bend, has spent the past two weeks touring the city’s parks, meeting park staff and training for her job. Her duties began July 14.
She has served as the South Bend Parks and Recreation Department wellness consultant and special event coordinator. She also served as a fitness supervisor for the South Bend parks system and started the city’s O’Brien Fitness Center, offering fitness and exercise classes, wellness testing and city wellness programs.
McKinley looks forward to continuing the park’s departments existing programs and has ideas for new programming, she said during an interview at her office Wednesday afternoon.
“I look forward to getting to know the community, leaders, and getting a relationship going with the walker and bikers who use the Greenway,” McKinley said.
She also looks forward to developing a rapport with families and the children who participate in the park’s programs.
She said she looks forward to continuing the parks department’s preschool programs, art and kid’s nature camps, the dino dig, daddy daughter dance and the summer concert series.
She also noted the Family Carnival is Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. in Central Park.
Some ideas she has are building on what Winona Lake has done with the Warsaw Breakfast Optimist Club Triathlon. She hopes to have a training class in Warsaw for youth who participate in triathlons.
She has participated in triathlons for the past 31 years, including the Optimist Triathlon in Winona Lake. She qualified and competed in the U.S. Triathlon National Championships in 1986 in Hilton Head, S.C.
Other ideas are to have stand up paddle board competitions on Center Lake. The board looks like the bottom of a surf board that people paddle on, McKinley explained.
Another idea is to offer  yoga in the park for mothers and children and for adults during their lunch hours.
The community can visit warsaw.in.gov for a listing of the 2014 recreation guide for fall activities.
Larry Plummer, parks superintendent, said with McKinley’s knowledge and background she will bring new ideas and programs.
“We surely want to keep the programs that have been well run and well attended in the park system, but it is always good to have new and fresh ideas for programming,” Plummer said.
McKinley graduated in 1982 from Indiana University Bloomington with a bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy, and in 2010 earned her master’s degree from IU Bloomington in recreational therapy. She is married to Randy, and they have three children: Patrick, 29, Arie, 20, and Wyatt, 18.
McKinley encourages the community to contact her with suggestions for programming or park ideas at 574-372-9554 or lmckinley@warsaw.in.gov