Q&A with Leah Arnold

Island Rec Association
March 2, 2023

As the Deputy Parks and Recreation Executive Director and 18-year veteran of the Island Rec Association, Leah Arnold has done more than simply watch the good work this organization does to bring us together through its community programs, events and fantastic facility. From her start as a summer intern fresh from snowy Indiana to today, she’s been one of the driving forces behind it to this day.

Q: You came in right before a period of huge growth for Island Rec, particularly with the facility itself. What has it been like to see that and help steer it?
A: It was a long process (laughs). It took us about 13 years to finally get the expansion and enhancement from start to finish, but it was great to be able to see it grow. A lot of the kids who first started as kindergartners when I was here are now graduating and coming back to work for us. Louis (Wright), our community director, started at 6 years old, and he’s worked his way up and is now here full time. So seeing that gradual process and seeing how much this has meant to the community, it’s really amazing. A half a million people used this facility or the parks in the last year. When I first started, we were trying to get 100,000.

Q: What has been your favorite part of the expansion?
A: Gregory’s Playground is near and dear to my heart. It was built in conjunction with the Children’s Relief Fund and the Kiwanis Clubs of Hilton Head and a lot of other donors, private donors and stuff like that. Just seeing how our special-needs kids are able to get around on that playground  —  it’s been amazing. And it’s open to the public when it’s not being used by our programs. I think it was just the icing on the cake because that opened about a year after we opened the facility. So just adding that was like the final touch.

Q: What’s your go-to when you have an hour to kill?
A: I like my elliptical upstairs. Everybody knows if Leah is not in her office, they can find her on the elliptical upstairs. There’s one little cardio area, and I go up there for my lunch break and I work out. I can read and relax and zone out. Besides that, I like going and sneaking in with our preschoolers and just saying, ‘Hi.’ I started in our preschool and youth programs, so my heart will always be there. So, just having the kids around and saying,  ‘Hi, Miss Leah,’  it brightens my day. It keeps me young at heart.

Q: What’s the one sport you know you can take anyone in?
A: I would say I can still beat the kids in knockout basketball. It’s just a free-throw shooting game. I’m not playing the basketball game; too many surgeries. But I can still beat them in knockout.

Q: What’s the best beach on the island?
A: Driessen Beach or Islanders. I don’t really go to the south end. I’ll go to either one of those beaches a lot with friends to hang out or take my dog Jack for a walk. It’s just nice to be outside.