The  hap-pi-ness sign on the wall  says it all.  The Recreation and Parks Department is thrilled with their new office and program space at City Hall.  L-R Director Todd Goodwin, Assistant Director Holly Baker, Administrative Assistant Darla Champine, Program Coordinator Katherine Munson, and Program Coordinator Mason Rachampbell.

Recreation and Parks: Creating Community Connections

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Thursday April 10, 2014

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to participate in a South Burlington Recreation and Parks Department activity,  either as a youth or an adult, you know about the amazing array of programming that exists. But did you know the department, with its 42 seasonal staff and over 25 instructors and 24 camp instructors puts on more than 400 programs per year? This is quite a feat considering the department also helps oversee 5 active parks, 2 natural area parks, a dog park, a community garden with 30 plots, 10 open spaces, a 20 plus mile recreation path, 15 fields, and 17 facilities!

At the April 7 City Council meeting, Recreation and Parks Department Director Todd Goodwin led councilors and the public on a tour of the department’s newly expanded facility inside City Hall. The new offices and program room are located in the first floor space vacated by the police department.  

A ribbon cutting ceremony along with cookies and lemonade helped make the inauguration of the space official. This updated space has fueled excitement among staff about broadening programming even further. “Our plans are to fill the new space with early morning fitness, mid-morning pre-school age programs, mid-day 50+ programs, after school activities and adult fitness programs in the evenings,” Goodwin said.    

During the tour of the department, the expanded office area was shown along with a new program space. Located nearby is a fitness space for use by city employees.  Most of the apparatus was donated;  there was no equipment cost to the city to set up this room.  

The mission of the department is to “enhance positive community connections by providing quality active and passive recreation spaces and programs for the community of South Burlington to play, learn, and grow together.”

They successfully and consistently achieve this under the leadership of Director Todd Goodwin and Assistant Director Holly Baker. Goodwin has been with the department for 34 years. He began as a Summer Playground Leader, progressed to a part time Program Coordinator and then to a full time Program Supervisor and then Assistant Director before being appointed as Director last fall. 

For Goodwin the most rewarding part of his job is, “Watching and seeing families grow up with us over the years.” 

Assistant Director Holly Baker feels similarly, “Being able to serve the city that I live in has been incredibly rewarding for me.  I love building community connections through our many programs and celebrating all that makes South Burlington an amazing place.”

Baker has been employed full time with the Department for 2 ½ years, but she has held many part time positions with SBRD over the years.  Baker grew up in the programs, transitioned to a playground leader during her junior year at South Burlington High School, and throughout the next ten years, remained connected to the department on a seasonal basis assisting with everything from soccer and basketball to skiing and special events. 

Administrative Assistant Darla Champine joined the department in 1979, and plays an important role in carrying out  the day to day activities of the group’s complex schedule. 

The department offers programming for all ages from the Lil’Tykes and Kinder Programs to youth and teen, adult and mature adult classes. The offerings cover a range of topics and interests including fitness, the arts, holiday planning, SAT preparation, boating safety, and dog training among many others and the motivated and resourceful staff is always planning more! Over 45 summer camps that boast 90 sessions are always popular. In 2013, the camps averaged 215 children per week. Part of what makes all these programs great is that they encompass the department’s core values which include healthy lifestyles and happy hearts, participation and fun, growth and diversity, customer service, and partnership/stewardship. 

Although all of the programs have a solid turnout, Goodwin and Baker have noticed a few favorites of attendees. These include the fitness programs and special events. “Once a month we host a community wide special event, from Pumpkins in the Park in the fall, to  Summer Fest at Red Rocks and everything in between,” Baker said, “These events offer opportunities for the entire community to come together, meet new people, embrace old friends and celebrate the wonderful resources South Burlington provides.”

As with any type of growth, challenges and strategies for overcoming them become inevitable. During his presentation Goodwin outlined a number of improvements to facilities and playground structures that will be necessary in the near future. He also mentioned the need for a dedicated fund for the development, maintenance, and upkeep of parks. More staff is needed during the spring, summer, and fall for maintenance, but again, additional funds would be necessary to hire these individuals. Goodwin said he would also love a multi-generational community space to rent for revenue, more transportation for 50 + programming, and both an art and active recreation space. 

With an eye to what’s ahead, the department will continue to focus on the present and do what they do best, offering outstanding and affordable programming to the community. If you have a talent or skill you’d like to share, get in touch with the Department and maybe you’ll be teaching the South Burlington’s latest class! 

SOURCE:Corey Burdick, Correspondent