Rustic Park Rec Center Has a New Director

By Debbie Alexander
Staff Writer

As the new director of the Rustic Canyon Recreation Center, Paige Barnes brings an enthusiastic and dynamic energy to the beloved park. In her leadership role, she plans on maintaining the integrity of the various programs by meeting the needs and wishes of the clientele.

“When I got here, I decided to observe and see how things work,” Barnes said. “Rustic Canyon is a very stable community, and the staff is an amazing group of individuals.”

A 20-year veteran of the L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks, Barnes was recruited for this promotion from Branford Recreation Center in Arleta, where she was a facility director for six years.

Paige Barnes is the new Rustic Canyon Recreation Center Director. Photo: Lesly Hall

Paige Barnes is the new Rustic Canyon Recreation Center Director.
Photo: Lesly Hall

“Branford was very sports-driven and heavily geared towards youth programs, more like the Palisades Recreation Center,” Barnes noted. “There is always room for movement in the Recreation and Parks Department. If you are doing well, then you go where you are called.”

First she needed to pass a required test. “It is civil service,” she said. “I prayed that I passed. Then, I moved on to the interview and after that I prayed that I got offered the job.”

Barnes arrived in February and immediately turned her workspace into a home away from home. “I spend a lot of time here, so I need ownership over the environment and to know where things are.”

Her touches include a few family heirlooms—her grandmother’s couch and a chair, along with one of her artist father’s statues, which now greets park patrons near the office.

Her commute from Valley Village (near Studio City) to Rustic can be long, but she lucked into a flexible schedule that helps with beating the traffic.

According to Barnes, Rustic and Bradford are night and day from each other. “The communities and needs are very different,” she said. “It’s like I was cooking in a Mexican restaurant and have shifted gears to Italian. Yet, I am totally still cooking.”

Barnes began her career as a part-time recreation assistant at Queen Anne Recreation Center in Los Angeles shortly after graduating from her father’s alma mater, North Carolina Central University, as a drama major.

“I’m not directing plays for theater,” said Barnes, but she strongly believes that her career has allowed her to “still direct plays” with the programs and classes she oversees.

She feels Rustic is much more of an adult facility with a smattering of children’s pro- grams. Yet, her current focus is on the park’s extremely popular summer camp.

A new act for Barnes also includes coordinating with the Park Advisory Board on the newly released Historical Master Plan for the venerable clubhouse.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me—unique to this specific park—and I am working with such a dynamic group of people on the plan,” she said.

Barnes really appreciates the neighborhood passion for Rustic Canyon Park. “I lucked into such a loving and nurturing environment,” she said. Yet, her highest praise goes to her staff because “they are constantly educating me, so I can fully serve the needs of this community.”

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