By CAYLA intern Doni Palma-Roberto
As one can imagine, running a functioning department can be challenging, but with Peyton O’Conner’s ideas to obtain an egalitarian experience for everyone, the Recreation Services department works toward that goal. Learn how Buncombe County Recreation Services Director Peyton O’Conner accomplishes successful accepting environment parks with an intentional goal of being equitable and inclusive to everyone is a main priority. July is National Parks and Recreation Month, and we are highlighting some of our dedicated Recreation Services staff.
Name: Peyton O’Connor
Position: Recreation Services Director
Starting off as an urban planner and working for the city of Asheville, Peyton has worked for Buncombe County since 2006 and has been in their current role as the Parks and Recreation director since 2015. In their work, there’s an emphasis on inclusivity with their parks and events to create an equitable environment by working toward seeing the future of the department expanding, while maintaining existing parks and culture areas. This philosophy also extends by serving rural areas of the county with equitable offerings to everyone.
What Peyton likes about their job is that it is tangible and can make improvements in the lives of citizens. The department achieves this through the effects of their inclusionary efforts such as equitably distributed spaces; inclusive expanded outreach to the LGBTQ+ community; and special needs groups. Through adaptive classes, those with intellectual disabilities and mobility impairments can focus on daily living activities for an independent lifestyle. Furthermore, they are actively creating an accepting environment for members of the LGBTQ+ by drawing attention to the need for the formal inclusion of transgender kids. Peyton also strives to take away the stigma of fitness and health by creating a first-time experience for people to start healthy habits. One such offering is what Peyton likes to call “fun and not competitive spaces” in sport programs.
As told by Peyton, the department’s mission is to maximize its resources while improving and making experiences better. Without a “hard working staff,” this wouldn’t be possible because each person has an individual dedication to the job. Ultimately, Peyton would like the public to know how much work the department does with a small staff to reach out to its citizens and create a fun, accepting space.
Peyton was recently featured on the National Recreation and Park Association's Open Space Radio for a discussion on fostering an LGBTQ+ inclusive environment in parks and recreation. To listen and learn more, click here.