October 23, 2013 - The Polly Ann Trail has a new manager to oversee its maintenance and activities, but he's certainly not new to the Oxford community.
Patrick Ball, of Oxford, was hired as the new Polly Ann Trail manager. (click for larger version)
Oxford resident and former school district athletic director Patrick Ball was hired Oct. 16 by the trail's management council in a 6-3 vote.
Overall, Ball believes he's a good fit for the position because of his administrative background, his ability to organize activities and his "new-found love" for physical fitness and being active.
"I used to be a desk person," he said. "Now, I'm definitely not a desk person."
The trail council was expected to meet again on Oct. 23 to approve an employment agreement for Ball.
Ball will work 15 hours per week (60 hours per month) and be paid $18 per hour to start. If Ball successfully completes a six-month probationary period, his hourly wage will increase to $20.
A total of 20 people applied for the trail manager's position, which was left vacant when Juliane Bagley resigned July 3 after a little more than two years on the job. She cited her daughter's health issues as the reason.
Ball worked as Oxford's athletic director from July 1998 until June 2009 when he retired. He was named Regional Athletic Director of the Year for 2008-09.
As athletic director, Ball was in charge of scheduling more than 500 sporting events annually; arranging for transportation; hiring coaches, officials and game workers; overseeing a staff of 100; and monitoring, maintaining and creating facilities.
"I certainly have the ability to communicate with people," he said. "I have a good knowledge base (when it comes to) working with people and working with boards."
Ball developed and oversaw the athletic program's annual budget, which amounted to approximately $560,000 for grades 7-12.
Since 2010, Ball has worked as a certified personal trainer at Anytime Fitness in Oxford. He founded and owns Inch by Inch Personal Training Service.
"I'm into the fitness realm pretty heavy," said Ball, who not only trains people for triathlons, he participates in them as well.
Ball is an avid cyclist who rides 40 to 60 miles per week.
Over the last three years, he's tried to ride 1,000-plus miles annually and has traveled the Polly Ann, Paint Creek and Macomb Orchard trails locally along with the TART Trails system in northern Michigan's Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties.
"I'm concerned about where I bike and what kind of safety issues are there," Ball said. "I know riding on roads in northern Oakland County is very difficult and very scary."
One of the potential improvements Ball would like to make to the Polly Ann Trail involves creating a series of water stations where users can refill their containers, particularly on hot days when people need to stay hydrated.
"They had that on the TART trail the summer I rode up there in Traverse City," he said. "Every so many miles, they have a 5-gallon cooler full of water – no cups or anything like that. Most bikers have their own bottles."
Not only would this benefit trail users, Ball said it would give him another reason to be on the 14.2-mile trail, which runs through Oxford, Addison and Orion townships as well as the villages of Oxford and Leonard.
"That gets me out on that trail a little bit more, a couple times a week, making sure those (coolers) stay secure and the water stays fresh," he said.
Ball plans to solicit as much input as he can from those who care about the trail and use it regularly.
"What do the (trail) council and the people who ride that path want to see three, four, five years down the line?" he said. "Where do we go from here now that (the trail's) there? What improvements do people want to see?"
Ball noted he's not afraid to put in some hours approaching people directly to garner their thoughts.
"I wouldn't mind standing on the (pedestrian) bridge (over M-24) and catching people (going) back and forth one Saturday morning," he said.
He'd also like to hold an informal meeting with trail users.
Ball noted many people who workout at Anytime Fitness also use the Polly Ann Trail, so he hopes his position there will create "a line of communication."
Ball plans to contact other trail managers to pick their brains about finances, how their operations work and successful programs they've implemented.
He wants to find out what makes other trails "cool" and learn why people use them.
"I would never say I'm coming in with so much knowledge (that) I can do it all," he said. "That would be a false statement on my part."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.