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West Valley City Journal

New director puts energy, passion into WVC parks and recreation department

Jul 28, 2017 01:01PM ● By Travis Barton

Nancy Day worked at the University of Utah, Cottonwood Heights and Salt Lake County prior to coming to West Valley City 18 years ago. Day was named the city’s second ever parks and recreation director. (Travis Barton/City Journals)

For only the second time in the history of West Valley City there is a new parks and recreation director. 

Nancy Day was sworn in as the city’s second parks and recreation director on June 27 taking over from the retiring Kevin Astill, who started the department 32 years ago.

“I kind of knew (I was the second director in the department’s history), but it didn’t really hit until they said that. I’m proud that the city has thought enough of me to give me this opportunity. It is crazy,” Day said. 

Day, who was serving as the city’s assistant parks and recreation director and as facility director for the Family Fitness Center, has worked in the field for over 30 years. 

“I was thrilled to be able to serve my community at even more capacity than what I was able to do as assistant director,” she said. 

City Manager Wayne Pyle highlighted numerous reasons for appointing Day to the position having seen her work first hand over the past 18 years as facility director of the 100,000-square- foot Family Fitness Center. Day was named to that position six months before its construction was completed. 

Pyle said it’s not an easy task running a municipal fitness center making sure they’re well attended while also sustaining maintenance standards. 

“It’s a huge balancing act to make that happen such that you can keep the thing operating, keep it popular and keep it looking good to maintain its popularity, and Nancy has done a superb job at that,” he said. 

Her balancing ability appealed to Pyle as he was naming a new leader of an entire department. 

Pyle said she not only has a “great rapport and working relationship with her staff” but she also understands financial matters, budgets, staffing, operations and knowing how to begin chipping away at issues that need fixing without throwing off the budget’s equilibrium.  

“She balances all those balls she’s juggling very well, superbly,” Pyle said. 

Day was born in Burbank, California spending most of her childhood bouncing around the western United States due to her father’s work (he was a chief medical administrator for Veteran Affairs hospitals). 

She arrived in Utah as a teenager and has lived in West Valley City for over 30 years having raised her five kids here with four of them attending Granger High. 

“I love West Valley City as a community, it’s why I’ve stayed here. I think I’ve lived in four different homes in West Valley City,” Day said. 

It’s another box that Day checked when being considered for the position. 

“She has a real passion for the city,” Pyle said.

Well-known in the veteran community, Day organizes the annual Veterans Day event as well as orchestrating the Veterans Memorial Wall that came to the city in June 2016. 

Day was named to the position shortly before WVC’s annual WestFest, its massive yearly celebration that takes place over four days at Centennial Park. 

While it’s been busy, Day said she has a great staff that will help going forward. She’s met with them individually discussing needs, desires and the long-term goals for each division in the department.

“They’re very supportive,” she said. “They have ideas and they’re excited about things and they’re passionate about what they do. To me that’s critical that it’s not just a job with a paycheck. You’re doing it ‘cause you want to do it and make a difference.”

She continued, “When you have a group like that you’re working with, it makes it a lot of fun.” 

The city has 27 parks, and in recent years, the city has started employing trail systems that run around a park or a neighborhood. Pyle said he’d like to see those trails start connecting to the park system and into the community. 

“How do you integrate that into the infrastructure that we have, that’s a challenge for us that I think we can get better at and explore and Nancy’s kind of the perfect person for that ‘cause she’s got the passion. She greets new ideas with an examination,” he said. 

For Pyle, parks and recreation is a vital city service. Maybe not as dramatic as police and fire, “but just as important for different reasons.”

“It’s one of the first most visible things that you think of when you think of what a city service is,” Pyle said. “And it certainly contributes, even if it’s indirectly to all those other factors—property values, safety of neighborhoods, quality of life, how I perceive my community—all those sorts of things. All of that makes it, in my mind, an essential service.”

Day expressed her excitement for the future of the department. She has been putting together an advisory board to analyze needs in various parts of the city. 

“We’re such a large community, we have a lot of stuff going on by Centennial (Park) but that’s one small area in comparison so I’d like to reach out and see what the needs are in some of these other smaller neighborhoods around the city and see what we can do,” she said. 

Communities across the country, Day said, have embraced farmers markets and community gardens. It’s something she’d like to see implemented here to build upon the enduring parks legacy left by Astill. 

“I really think there’s a lot we can do for the community. There’s a lot that has been done, but I think there’s even more that we can continue to progress and do, and I’m excited for that challenge. I’m nervous too,” Day said. 

Pyle said the department’s future is bright when asked what he hopes to see going forward.

“That’s another thing that I believe Nancy will be able to bring to us. She’s very high energy and she’s thought a lot about where do we go from here,” he said.