The core function of the Recreation Department was to provide recreational opportunities for citizens of all ages. These included playgrounds and tot lots, sports, soap box derby races, and indoor activities such as friendship clubs, dramatics, dance, art, and handicrafts. To carry out these duties the Recreation Department had to plan for and maintain various sites throughout the city, though as of 1952 outdoor recreation areas other than school property were developed and maintained by the Parks Department. The Department also had to coordinate with numerous other organizations within the city that had an interest in promoting recreation or owned property used for recreation.
Before 1948 the department consisted of only a few employees to administer recreational activities, and a group of clerical staff (including an accountant) to handle administrative tasks. In 1948 two sections were added: Athletics, and Playgrounds and Centres. By 1952 a Recreation Building section had been created to run the City Recreation Building, out of which numerous recreational programs operated. In 1958 an Expressive Arts Section was established to oversee activities such as dramatics, art and handicrafts.
On August 29, 1961 Bylaw 2202 was passed, merging the Recreation Department and Parks Department to form the Parks and Recreation Department. The amalgamation took effect January 1, 1962.