Parks & Rec
Make your city a fun and healthy place to live by planning and running events, camps, and classes for children, adults, and seniors. Plan park improvements that will benefit your community.
Marcia Larson, parks and recreation director, Bemidji
Why she shows up every day: Seeing people interact with and use what my department has built for them is the most rewarding part of my job. Bemidji is a regional center, and our parks are used by not only people who live here but also tourists who come from pretty far away. My work impacts all of those people, and I don’t know if I could make an impact like that by working in the private sector or in any other setting.
How she got the job (and how you could too): I have a bachelor’s degree in parks and recreation from Kent State University, and I also have a master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Dakota. In college I heard someone speak about the many opportunities that came from working in parks and rec, and I decided that was what I wanted to do. I worked a lot of jobs at campgrounds, I worked as a community director, lifeguard, and as a water safety instructor. I volunteered as much as possible with any kind of recreational activity. I worked for the Park District in Grand Forks, North Dakota for several years and assisted in coordinating the Prairie Rose State Games. After that, I worked as the city administrator in Blackduck, Minnesota for eight years. Then in 2008 I started as the parks and recreation director in Bemidji, which has been my dream job.
What’s the job like? I’m responsible for overseeing all of the parks (including Minnesota’s famous Paul Bunyan landmark!), recreation, forestry, and the indoor ice arena in Bemidji. They call my department the “fun department,” because that’s what it’s all about, we’re creating fun opportunities for people. We do a lot of things behind the scenes, and I don’t think people realize how much planning, organizing, and discussion happens way before something is built. But once we complete a parks project and are able to give that to the community, the impact we have on people and the community really appeals to me.
One of the things we really try to focus on in my department is getting people outside in the parks. We look at the health and wellness component, whether it’s bike rentals, opportunities to try something new like paddle boarding, or just going to the park and being outside.
The job comes with a lot of variety. I could be inside at meetings all day one day, and the next day I might be on the beach checking to see if the beach looks good, or trying to envision how we could add another community garden to a plot of land that is underdeveloped.
Every day there is an opportunity to learn something new and figure out if there’s a better way to do things. Parks and rec keeps changing, and these changes force us to pay attention to what’s going on in our community and to make sure that everyone is included in how we implement our projects.
Are you interested in learning more about a city career? One great way to get advice is to contact someone in your own city or a city nearby. You can ask questions about the job and learn more about training programs that may be available. Connect to city websites and city contact information through the League of Minnesota Cities.