Monroe parks director excelling in profession

The Monroe Parks and Recreation Department has long been known for its lush network of parks facilities, but now director Mike Farrell is being recognized nationally for putting Monroe on the map as a host for large-scale sporting events.-á

Farrell was honored as a Readers' Choice Award-Winning Parks & Recreation Professional in the January 2016 issue of SportsEvents Magazine, a national publication dedicated to helping planners of amateur sporting events be more successful. Farrell was nominated for the award by Snohomish County Sports Development Director Tammy Dunn, and was then voted into the top spot by coworkers, professional peers and members of the community.-á

As the head of the Snohomish County Sports Commission, Dunn works with parks departments throughout the county. She said she considers Farrell to be one of her "go-toGÇ¥ parks directors when it comes to presenting new sporting event opportunities, and considers the Monroe Parks and Recreation Department a valued partner to the commission.

"This is from the leadership of Mike Farrell, parks director,GÇ¥ Dunn said. "Mike has been creative and open to bringing sporting events to the city of Monroe. Under his leadership, the city of Monroe has hosted an array of sporting events, which come back to the city year after year.GÇ¥-á

Under Farrell's direction, numerous large-scale sporting events have been successfully hosted in Monroe, including the National Softball Association Girls Fast-pitch Western World Series, the Legends Baseball Tournament, the TriMonroe USA Triathlon Junior and Youth Elite Series and the Supra Boats Pro Wakeboard Tour.

"We've definitely grown in the area of special events in the last 10 years,GÇ¥ Farrell said. "I really enjoy reaching out and working in partnership with many diverse groups to develop new sustainable special events and programs that both local residents and visitors can enjoy.GÇ¥

Farrell was honored by the award and quick to give credit to his staff, a supportive mayor and city council and thriving partnerships with local organizations like the Monroe Chamber of Commerce. According to Farrell, success has been all about overcoming the limitations associated with being a smaller community, by championing Monroe's strengths and seeking ways to capitalize on its assets.


They also had to be willing to try new things, as was the case with TriMonroe.

"That's how we found that not only can we host a triathlon, but that this is an ideal triathlon for spectators,GÇ¥ Farrell said.

Triathlon spectators are often forced to choose which part of the race they would like to observe 'swimming, running or biking. But in Monroe, people can see all aspects of the race, because everything is centrally located. The swim is in Lake Tye, the run is around the outside of Lake Tye and the bicycle course traverses Fryelands Boulevard.

It's also an ideal triathlon for athletes, with a flat course and simple layout to navigate.-á

The Supra Boats Pro Wakeboard Tour (PWT) at Lake Tye Park is another fantastic event that has really given Monroe an opportunity to shine, Farrell said. Athletes come from all over the world to participate, and the event is broadcast on NBC Sports. The Supra Boats PWT only makes five stops around the United States and Canada.

"The wakeboard event draws over 6,000 people and is nationally televised,GÇ¥ Farrell said. "We're happy to have them back because they were not here last year.GÇ¥

Another key to success has been persistence and the ability to overcome obstacles, Farrell said. Last year, budgetary challenges nearly stymied major renovations to the Monroe Skate Park, but Farrell secured a Washington Wildlife Recreation Program grant, which helped provide the necessary funds.

Certain parks have their strengths within the system, he said. Sports tournaments are often held at Skykomish River Park, a 32-acre park featuring four grass baseball fields, three soccer fields, benches, restrooms and a concession building. Rotary Field is just across the streetand completely ADA-accessible, with bleacher seating, parking and restrooms.-á

Lake Tye Park is used for events that require a water feature, like wakeboard and fishing events and TriMonroe, but it's also frequently used for community events. Community events are another area in which Monroe truly gets to shine, Farrell said, and it's largely due to a network of nonprofit community groups that work collaboratively with the parks department.

Events like Monroe's Easter egg hunt, National Night Out, Movies Under the Moon and Monroe's Music in the Park summer concert series are all made possible through successful community partnerships with organizations like the Monroe Chamber of Commerce, the Monroe YMCA, the Monroe Arts Council and the Monroe Rotary Club. Corporate sponsorships from local businesses help as well.

And having a cohesive team is another important component, he said.-á

Monroe Parks Department staff is always willing to go above and beyond the call of duty, Farrell said, which is an integral part of what makes the department so successful. In January, they put together an impromptu Seahawks rally in less than a week. The crowd topped out at more than 1,500 Seahawks fans, happily waving 12th man flags and watching performances by the Sea Gals.

Another shining moment was last summer's Heart by Heart concert, the final concert of the 2015 Music in the Park summer series. The event was nearly cancelled due to a funding shortfall, but at the last minute the Monroe Chamber of Commerce used a crowdfunding platform to swiftly earn the funds necessary to keep the band. More than 1,000 Sky Valley residents packed Lake Tye Park for the free show.

Farrell has been the director of the Monroe Parks Department for 10 years, and lives in Monroe with his wife, Meagan, and daughter, Lindsay. Originally from California, his first parks job was with Monrovia Parks and Recreation, east of Pasadena and below the San Gabriel Mountains.

"That was the first place I worked,GÇ¥ Farrell said. "It's kind of funny ' I lived and worked in Monrovia, and now I live and work in Monroe.GÇ¥

Farrell is looking forward to another year of successful events and exciting opportunities for parks system enhancements, including developing a plan-áfor-áa new park at the Cadman site in the southernmost portion of city limits near the Skykomish River.

"We are truly thankful for Mr. Farrell's leadership and dedication to our community,GÇ¥ said Monroe Mayor Geoffrey Thomas. "Thank you and congratulations, Mike.GÇ¥

Photo by Chris Hendrickson Monroe Parks & Recreation Department Director Mike Farrell enjoys a sunny day at Lake Tye Park.


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