All About Relationships
Meet LuAnn Bryan, McGill’s Newest Member of the Parks and Recreation Team
LuAnn Bryan joined McGill in 2020 as a parks and recreation project consultant. With over 43 years of experience, she has built strong relationships with local governments throughout North Carolina. LuAnn brings a unique perspective to McGill’s land planning and recreation team and their projects from her exceptional career journey. Having worked for local governments, state agencies, regulatory agencies, power companies, universities, non-profits, and funding agencies in positions related to parks, recreation, and land planning, she knows the ins and outs of the profession from every view possible. LuAnn possesses expertise in parks and recreation master planning, trail design, athletic and aquatic facilities design, disability accommodations, parks and recreation operations and management, and funding assistance.
We sat down with LuAnn to learn about what inspires her in her work and her new role.
From your long career, what would you say stands out?
I was the fourth female park ranger in North Carolina. While I was a park ranger, it became evident to me that there was a need for mobility and physical disabilities accommodations in our parks so that everyone could have a chance to enjoy North Carolina’s natural beauty. In 1978, during my time working at Medoc Mountain State Park in Hollister, I created my first ADA-accessible trail. My housemate worked with a group of students with physical and mental disabilities, which inspired me to create the trail. I developed an ADA-accessible trail that went down to the river and looped back. It was flat and level so that she could easily push people in wheelchairs along the trail. Although you cannot make a park like Medoc Mountain State Park entirely accessible, due to mountainous terrain, we were able to create a small loop trail that allowed those with mobility issues to have access to Little Fishing Creek.
How do you help clients with ADA accessibility?
Anything funded with the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) requires the parks to be ADA accessible. I work toward retrofitting parks, which may be small changes. For instance, changes could be using an Eagle Scout troop to retrofit a bench with a concrete pad beside the bench to be ADA accessible. I also think about accessibility in all dimensions of park planning and programming. For example, when creating a recreation center in the late ‘90s, I made sure that they included two family rooms. Now they wish they had done more family rooms, so they could help more elderly users and families. Recreation Resources Services was always cognizant of ADA.
What prompted you to transition into a consultant position?
I loved being a ranger and working in state parks, but at least I can say that as my career has changed, I have done a lot of different things. As a consultant, I have a variety of experience to draw upon to help people. I have built trails, bridges, and designed campgrounds, playgrounds, and parks. I love helping communities – that is what I do. I was really surprised when Mike Norris called and asked me to work for McGill. I was happily retired, but I loved doing what I am doing now. Two hours after the phone call, I said “send me the contract!”
What from your extensive education in public administration and parks and recreation will come in handy in your new position at McGill?
I obtained a great set of tools for conflict negotiation from my training at the Natural Resources Leadership Institute (NRLI, affectionally pronounced “gnarly”). I became a trained facilitator through North Carolina State University, which really made a difference with the work that I was doing at the time. Much of the work McGill completes for system-wide parks and recreation master planning and park master planning involves facilitating focus groups and meetings with residents and community stakeholders. McGill’s parks and recreation team is highly adept at facilitating open and effective dialogues. At this time, we are doing most of our stakeholder meetings via Zoom. Surprisingly, we are getting more public input via online engagement. I believe that we can do effective facilitation through virtual meetings and hybrid online and in-person meetings. Even after COVID-19, we will still be predominantly using this type of engagement.
Why is building relationships important in McGill’s parks and recreation services?
I have worked across the state with parks and recreation directors for a long time. I have built relationships filled with mutual respect. The parks and recreation directors know me, and I tell them the facts, even if they might not want to hear them. I will tell them my best professional opinion. I am a known quantity, so our clients can trust me. I make sure to be involved in the focus group meetings, because the people in the room know me. I like seeing parks and recreation plans and seeing facilities built. Our plans are better because we are getting the community input and McGill is skilled at getting public input.
Based on experience in parks and recreation planning, what would you say is trending?
Virtual meetings are the way of the future. We have gotten more input since COVID-19 with Zoom and virtual meetings than we did before with in-person meetings. I do not believe we will ever go back to completely in-person meetings. We have some hybrid meetings, but virtual meetings are a successful way to get public input.
The number one thing that people want in parks is walking — trails, greenways, multimodal. I would like to see more multimodal trails for bikes and pedestrians. We are building mountain bike trails even in the flat lands of Eastern North Carolina. Another trending thing is adventure play and free-form playgrounds, like the boulders at Rocky Face Park in Alexander County. If you ask a kid what they want in a playground, they want swings, swings, and more swings.
Another thing that is trending is working with health and medical groups to fund park amenities. All over Eastern North Carolina, we now have Liberty Swings–a swing that allows children in wheelchairs the opportunity to experience the joy of having a swing in the park–installed using Trillium grants. Working with health departments, parks and recreation departments can find innovative ways to fund park amenities related to walking and improved health.
What is your favorite McGill parks project?
I live near New Bern, North Carolina. The work we are doing for Martin Marietta in New Bern is going to be an amazing park and will provide amenities to citizens of Craven County that they do not currently have. The location alone is significant. The property consists of approximately 888 acres of land and lakes and the plan includes many of things that are trending, including a vast network of walking and biking trails, a ropes course, and an adventure playground.
To learn more about our Land Planning and Recreation Team, follow this link to meet Carrie Cranwill who takes a leadership role on the McGill’s streetscape projects. You can also read about a variety of our recent projects featured in this article written for World Landscape Architecture Month.
GET IN TOUCH
If you have a land planning and recreation project you need assistance with, reach out to Mike Norris, PLA, Director of Land Planning and Recreation, by email at email@example.com or by phone at 828.328.2024. We look forward to helping shape your community together!