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Feather River Bulletin of Quincy, California

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Park district manager retires, leaves a tight ship behind

Jim Boland spent the first months at his job vowing, "Two years max and I'm gone." Twenty-four years and nine months later, he is set to retire from his post as general manager of Central Plumas Recreation and Park District.

Why did he stay? "We made enough progress that I could see it was doable," Boland explained.

When he took the helm March 1, 1991, the district was "a sinking ship," he said. Pioneer Pool had fallen into such disrepair it had to be closed that summer. Many of the programs operated in the red, the district was borrowing $50,000 to $60,000 a year and most of the staff had quit. Rent, utilities and staff expenses at a new recreation center bled district coffers. Board meetings were acrimonious, and other organizations-were loath to partner with the district.

"It was really discouraging for me personally and professionally," said Boland, who came to the job with 12 years of park experience in the Bay Area.

It was like sailing into a headwind. A parcel tax failed at the polls. Vandals damaged the pool at Lowell Bader Park in Meadow Valley. The district office was burglarized. When, finally, repairs did start on Pioneer Pool, skateboarders ruined the fiberglass by riding on it before it cured.

Meanwhile, community members, angered by the pool closure, campaigned for board seats promising to fire Boland.

"Needless to say, I felt that I had made a terrible mistake in accepting the position," Boland said. "I had to realize that not everyone had the same level of passion for parks and recreation that I did, and stiU do."

At the time, he told the newspaper, "We'll take a careful look at all the programs, including their cost effectiveness. The district is in a tenuous financial position. We'll look for creative ways to generate additional funds and revenues. We will solicit input from the public."

Slowly, he corrected course and turned the ship around. The deficit spending stopped. Fees were adjusted. New board leadership committed to run the district more like a small business. The district downsized, moved to smaller offices and retained only core programs that paid for themselves. It settled a lawsuit and paid off loans."

"It wasn't easy," Boland said. "I had to say 'no' a lot."

Today, the district is a tight ship: financially solvent, its facilities well maintained and its programs holding steady. It owns and operates Pioneer Park and Pioneer Pool; operates and maintains the Quincy Skate Park for the county; and owns half of Lowell Bader Park and operates it under a special use permit from the Forest Service. Counting Boland, it employs three people full-time.

Its programs include youth and adult basketball, youth soccer, adult Softball, Johnsville Junior Ski Team, tennis lessons, a stringed instrument program, swim team and an aquatics program.

The organization has proved resourceful and adaptive. In one unusual arrangement, it garners one-third of its pool income from the High Sierra Music Festival.

Boland himself has exhibited great adaptability. "He's a go-to guy," longtime board member Jerry Sipe said. "Plumbing, mechanics, pouring concrete, Jim's a jack of all trades. I've seen him dive to the bottom of the pool to fix a valve."

Boland's greatest legacy may be the relationships he's fostered. His conversation is peppered with words like sustainability, community, collaboration and win-win. He has cultivated alliances and negotiated long-term agreements with Feather River College, Plumas Unified School District and Plumas County to share facilities and keep programs running.

"The district's motto is 'Together, we build community,' and I have tried to honor that the past 25 years," Boland said.

Sipe calls Boland "a rock. He's always there. He's just one of those unsung heroes. You don't realize all he does because he does it so quietly."

One of Boland's richest collaborations has been with the Quincy Rotary Club. An active member, he has leveraged it for funds as well as volunteer labor. In turn, the club has benefited from Boland's efforts to increase membership.

"He's fabulous. I think the world of him," said Andy Ryback, former Rotary president. "He'll do whatever needs doing. He exemplifies the club's motto of 'Service above Self.'"

If that weren't enough, Boland and his wife, Gloria, find time during the holidays to organize local bell ringers for the Salvation Army.

Of his rich life of service, Boland said, "It's particularly rewarding to see former life guards who in their day taught many hundreds of kids how to swim, then go on to become doctors, lawyers, teachers — real pillars of their communities."

Boland plans to remain in Quincy and stay active in Rotary. He wants to sail more during the summer months on Lake Almanor and spend more time trailer camping along the coast in the fall.

"And complete about a thousand home improvement projects," he said.

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Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015

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