Director of greenways, natural and historic resources, Greenville County Recreation District
By Guest Contributor, Jennifer Reynolds
Ty Houck first learned to love the recreation department while growing up in Palm Beach, Fla. His mother was the local parks and recreation director, and Houck biked to his first job there: sweeping tennis courts and driving golf carts.
Now, he is director of greenways, natural and historic resources for the Greenville County Recreation District, and recreation is still an important part of his life.
Houck established roots in the Upstate while attending Furman University and later as park manager of Paris Mountain State Park. In 2000, the city of Greenville published its master plan for Greenville parks. As Houck was developing trails for Paris Mountain, Greenville was developing the Greenville Health System Swamp Rabbit Trail. He calls the move to his current position a “natural evolution” allowing him to continue to develop recreation spaces and to remain in the Greenville area.
During his time at Greenville’s recreation department, Houck has overseen numerous projects. He runs oversight and construction of the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail outside city limits. He has overseen the improvements at Poinsett Bridge and Campbell’s Covered Bridge. But it is the projects where he works with volunteers from Hands On Greenville that he loves the best.
“It’s exciting knowing that many people are as excited about parks and recreation as I am,” Houck says.
Houck’s work is marked with enthusiasm. He frequently gives out his personal cellphone number so he can get feedback and ideas. When staff was stretched thin and bush-hogging needed to be done, he did it himself.
“I like to be hands-on,” he says.
He also knows the value of perspective, and endeavors to see recreation facilities like the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail from the perspective of others, such as children. In this way, he helps make the facilities enjoyable for the residents of Greenville.
“It’s very important to self-evaluate,” Houck says, “to see how people work and make the enjoyment factor high.”
What motivates you?
We have a “Kumbayah” mentality around the rec department, meaning if there’s an idea that makes sense and we can partner with someone to make it happen, that’s great. I’m always excited when there’s a good idea and I can run with it. There are so many unique opportunities to connect to different age groups. Everyone can enjoy a parks and rec kind of experience. It’s about creating individual opportunities and making them enjoyable for everyone.
Why is connecting with people important to you?
I try to be as accessible as possible. I give out my cell number freely. Customer service is so important. If you’ve got an idea and want to talk about it, I’m open to ideas. Lots of people are involved in making this happen. I’m just fortunate enough to get the day job to work with it. I’m always happy to work with people.
How do you use the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail?
My wife and I decided to move closer to the trail so that the kids can use the trail to go to school. I wanted my kids to have that experience. I modified my bike so my daughter can ride with me when I take her to school, and my son and I bike to the park. We started something called “Pedaling to Pizza” where we take the kids, meet up with friends and bike to local pizza restaurants. For us, it’s a quality-of-life issue.