Rick Edwards is grateful for the opportunities he's had during the past 19 years as Decorah Parks and Recreation director.

The retiring director, who began his career with the city May 23, 1994, will be honored with an open house, 2-4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 4, at Decorah City Hall Council chambers.

"It's been a lot of fun. We've just tried to continue the tradition of Decorah parks ... we're just trying to do our part to continue to improve them," Edwards said.

"We were lucky in the past that some of our founding fathers put away some real critical land on the bluffs and around town."

Land added

The completion of the 11-mile Trout Run Trail this year was a big project Park-Rec was involved in, but the department has also worked to enhance existing parks.

"We've tried to make improvements in all of them - some bigger and some smaller - but I think most of them look a little better than they did 19 years ago," he said.

More than 65 acres have been added to the Park-Rec system through the Decorah Prairie and expansion of Will Baker Park alone. There are also three new parks in the Vennehjem addition, and Wold Park was recently expanded.

The department acquires land for the park system as it becomes available through budgeting and "generous donations," Edwards explained.

"The community has high standards for their parks and I'm sure that will continue," he said.

"The nice part is the pride the whole community takes in the parks. It's fun to be a part of that ... When we have visitors in town, we're proud to show them what we have. It makes us feel good. It's a very active community - it's good to see people out using the facilities," Edwards said.

The director said he wants to thank the community, Park-Rec sponsors, citizens, city councils and mayors for their support and local media for keeping the public informed of Park-Rec activities.

"It's been great to be a part of it. I don't plan on going anywhere. I plan on staying the rest of my life here enjoying what we have here in Decorah," he said.

"The staff members I have worked with have been exceptional, and will continue to be exceptional after I leave. I feel very confident that my career's work will be continued at a very high level," Edwards said.

"Rick was here during a period of time the park system was expanded considerably," said Decorah Mayor Don Arendt.

"He worked very hard with the committee on the bicycle trail system ... he was very conscientious in that effort. He also worked with (Northeast Iowa) Food and Fitness Initiative and helped us start community gardens, which have been very successful. He did an excellent job of managing the swimming pool," the mayor commented, noting there were no serious accidents at the pool during his tenure.

"We appreciate the work he has done for the city," Arendt said.

A task force of two Park-Rec Board members and two Council members is rewriting the Park-Rec director's job description, according to City Manager Chad Bird. Once that is complete, he said the Council's personnel committee would reconvene and determine a hiring timeline.