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Meck parks look to volunteers to pick up slack

Mecklenburg Park and Recreation officials are hoping volunteers will help them get through a year where the park's budget will likely shrink by 40 percent. About 200 park employees will be laid off come next month when the new fiscal year begins. They maintain grounds, operate afterschool activities, and oversee recreation facilities. Park officials hope volunteers will be able to fill in some of those gaps. Lori Saylor coordinates the department's 15,000 volunteers. She says she's trying to get groups and individuals to dedicate more time to the parks. "We're really going to try to get people who are going to come out on a steady basis unsupervised," says Saylor. Park and Recreation already has a few programs where volunteers clean up two or three parks every afternoon. Saylor hopes to recruit more groups to do this. Park officials plan to close four recreation centers and Latta nature center to deal with county budget cuts. All remaining recreation centers will shut down on Sundays and open later in the mornings.