The Emporia-Greensville Recreation Association, Inc. (EGRA) was established around 1950 as the Civic Recreation Association. Initially, area civic clubs and individuals helped build the Center Street swimming pool and tennis courts. Different clubs would sponsor various baseball teams. Thus for many years, teams were known by club names such as Rotary, Lions, etc. In the early 1970s, the Association was reorganized. Funding from Emporia and Greensville County was sought to expand programs. A lighted baseball field was built on Center Street and the swimming pool, which had fallen into a state disrepair, was renovated. Programming was expanded to include softball for girls and women, as well as other sports such as basketball, football and soccer. Lighted twin tennis courts, a tot playground and picnic shelter were also added.
In the early 1980s another major project was conducted by EGRA which made it the largest provider of public recreation in Emporia and Greensville County. Meherrin River Park was constructed on the site of the former Emporia city dump east of the Lee Street river bridge. Built after the City closed the dump, Meherrin River Park complex included five lighted athletic fields with facilities for baseball, softball, soccer and football. Two playgrounds and a large picnic pavilion were added. A state grant of $100,000 was matched with over $100,000 in local funds which came from the City, County and various fund raising projects. When the nearly 50 year old Center Street pool finally failed and the Association outgrew the Center Street Park, most league activities were moved to Meherrin Park where there was more space, parking and now even a boat ramp. When the new millennium began in 2000, EGRA provided recreation in organized leagues to over 1,000 people and an estimated 30,000 visitors used the association operated parks, Meherrin River and Center Street. In all, the parks include: 18 acres of land, 6 lighted ball fields, 3 soccer fields, an all purpose practice field,2 playgrounds and 2 picnic shelters.
While many of the activities of the organized leagues have had a youth focus, men and women play softball on EGRA fields, as do some teams from Greensville County Schools when needed. EGRA programming averages 12 leagues with 88 teams and about 1,200 players.
Since Emporia and Greensville County do not operate their own public recreation programs, groups like E.G.R.A. provide a cost efficient recreation delivery system partially funded with public money, but offset by volunteers, part-time employees, fees and fundraising.
It has been estimated by a recreation commission study, that a government operated public recreation department would probably be a lot more costly to taxpayers. As a matter of fact, some people believe it would take an amount equal to the total currently spent on recreation in the City and County just to pay administrative costs of a new department. While ideally, that is the kind of program most people want, expense presently dictates that local recreation groups will have to use a cooperative approach as an alternative to a public department for the time being. Future projects like capital construction, new facilities and coordination of programs can be accomplished without the expensive overhead of a city/county department.
EGRA will play an important role in that future along with other recreation groups who make up the system in Emporia-Greensville. While the association's officers and directors provide leadership for the well established program, hundreds of volunteer coaches and assistants are the reason behind this local success story. That is why the Association's motto is: "EGRA Works For Our Kids!"