As Columbia County's population has exploded, Charlie Beale has seen its recreation offerings expand dramatically as well.
In his 28 years as manager of the county's recreation department, the number of Columbia County parks has grown from four to eight, covering more than 1,500 acres.
"I think the biggest thing we've seen over the years is the growth," he said.
Now, Mr. Beale is being recognized for his work. Just a few weeks ago, he was given the Distinguished Professional Award for the First District of the Georgia Recreation and Park Association.
"To be recognized by your peers, to me, is a great honor," he said.
To those who know Mr. Beale, the award comes as no surprise.
"He's totally devoted to what he does," county Commissioner Diane Ford said.
"He's very passionate about it. Charlie gives 110 percent."
"Charlie without a doubt is very dedicated to the recreation department," said County Commissioner Steve Brown, joking that "he always shows up in the recreation attire, so there's no question where his loyalty is."
Mrs. Ford joked that Charlie has become known for his short haircut, too.
"That hairdo hasn't changed in all these years," she said with a laugh.
Others credit his unselfish way. For example, Mr. Beale makes sure to point out that two others in his department recently received awards from the state recreation association. Athletics supervisor Randy Haygood won the Mike Daniels Award as outstanding programmer of the year, and Steve Jones took the distinguished professional award in facility and grounds division.
Mr. Beale's department is preparing to open the county's next major park, Blanchard Woods Park, off Blanchard Road in Evans, which will be the county's largest once it is completed. Currently, 100-acre Patriots Park, where Mr. Beale's office is located, is the largest.
Blanchard Woods Park will have 150 acres and offer such things as soccer fields, a skate park, a BMX track, a festival area and a cross country track. Mr. Beale said construction drawings should be started by next month, with construction beginning sometime next summer and an opening possibly by late spring 2006.
Mr. Beale said that when he thinks of park growth in Columbia County, he always remembers something former county Sheriff Otis Hensley once told him.
"He said every kid you keep out at a park, I don't have to worry about," Mr. Beale said. "And I've always thought about that."
Age: 56Hometown: Augusta, but has lived in Evans for the past 28 years
Community involvement: Columbia County recreation manager for the past 28 years, served as president of the Georgia Recreation and Park Association in 2000-2001
Family: Wife, Gayle; three children, Michelle Brown, 31, Chip Beale, 29, and Heather Beale, 21
Quote: "The people I work with are great. This department is like a family."
Reach Preston Sparks at 868-1222, ext. 115, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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