After 35 years of service as the Director of Milford Parks & Recreation, Gary Emory has been an instrumental part of the Milford community and its capability to evolve over time. Whether its the vision of the Mispillion Riverwalk, youth athletic programs or the beautification of downtown Milford, Emory has been there during the planning, inception and sustainability stages of each. Described by his colleagues as a selfless, hard worker, Gary has dedicated his professional life to the city of Milford and its residents.
A student at the University of Delaware, Gary graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Parks & Recreation, a degree that was only developed two years before he received it. Beginning with the Milford Parks & Recreation Department in 1978 at the age of twenty-four, he worked under Dave Coil, the founder of the department in Milford for three years before taking on the Director’s position in 1981. Over the years, Emory has received several awards including the Key To The City of Milford and the George T. Sargisson Award, the most prestigious honor given by the Delaware Recreation and Parks Society.
In the last three decades Gary’s largest accomplishment is the creation and maintenance of the Mispillion Greenway Riverwalk,which consists of 23 phases connecting Maple Street to Goat Island by way of pedestrian and bicycle paths. Always an advocate for creating healthy lifestyle opportunities Gary was an integral part of the land acquisition, planning, developing and maintenance that has allowed the town to revive the Mispillion River. Many lifelong residents remember when the Mispillion River was a place that people avoided just twenty years ago.
“The River was dilapidated and an abandoned resource because it had outlived its use for shipbuilding and commerce,” commented Emory. “Through the years it was a challenging yet rewarding process to rebuild the riverfront to what it looks like today.” Working on the first phase of the Mispillion Greenway Riverwalk his first days on the job, Gary will see the final phase of the project, Goat Island, completed in the next two years.
During the eighties and nineties as the Parks & Recreation youth and adult sports programs reached their highest levels of participation, local children and families were introduced to programs ranging from little league baseball, soccer, swimming and gymnastics. The focus on creating an active and healthy community became part of the town’s way of life.
“I remember being in the gym for youth basketball at six in the morning and finding myself still around at seven in the evening helping referee adult leagues, I enjoyed it so much,” commented Gary. “My favorite part of this job has always been interacting with the public.”
Acknowledging that at some point in his career he will retire, Emory is concerned about what will need to be done to keep Milford active and beautiful in the future. He stresses that the next Director of Parks & Recreation will need to be a leader who is out in the field.
“We have come so far in the last thirty-five years, Milford is a very recreational town and we need to continue to support it,” commented Gary. “Even though we are small, we are dynamic and believe in quality over quantity; that has served us well.”
Despite all of Gary’s many successes and his ability to always be thinking about the future of Milford’s recreational opportunities, he remains very humble and thankful for his thirty-five years of service.
“I love Milford, I am lucky to have had the opportunity to serve my hometown,” commented Gary. “I feel like the job was custom-built for me. Serving the youth is something I enjoy doing and it is what kept me going.”