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Lyndon Task Force Hoping for Town Rec Department


By Amy Ash Nixon, as seen in the Caledonian Record:

LYNDON — A task force formed in May, after the Community Visit process conducted by the Vermont Council on Rural Development, will propose a town recreation department.

Adrienne D’Olimpio, chair of the recreation task force, said the group will attend the Dec. 4 Lyndon Select Board meeting where they will present their summary report and pitch a rec. dept.

At a meeting held this week at Lyndon Town School, D’Olimpio and task force members summarized the group’s research and findings from a community survey.

About a dozen organizations completed the survey.

“People need funding, space and volunteers,” said D’Olimpio. Those responding also stressed how they would like to see a dedicated building for recreation as well as arts opportunities in the community, the group discussed.

D’Olimpio said, “The Vermont Children’s Theater has a building, but a lot of these groups are meeting here and there and are struggling to find space.”

Three of the most significant venues in the town of Lyndon for recreational opportunities are already owned by the town, the group discussed, but have either nonprofit groups attached to them to operate them, or in the case of the ice arena, an agreement with Lyndon Institute. The other two sites include the Lyndon Outing Club, and the pool at Powers Park.

The need for more volunteers is high, said D’Olimpio. In many cases the same handful of people are over-extended and trying to help multiple organizations. “People are being absolutely drained,” she said.

Having a dedicated staff member to coordinate communications, marketing, registrations and more for all the groups through a central clearinghouse plus having a building would alleviate many strains on the groups already in place, the group discussed. The nonprofits would still need to have their own autonomy and volunteers, but could find support and strength under the umbrella of a town recreation department, they said.

There could also be savings financially, the task force noted.

Getting students from Lyndon State College involved in the recreation department as interns could also help out, they discussed, and having students involved in the recreation department planning and operation would be an important asset, the task force members agreed.

Helping citizens to understand the need for a recreation department to build support will be critical, it was discussed, as there may eventually be a ballot question seeking support for the proposal.

“We need to convey this is for everyone’s benefit, we have to show that in the long-run, it will pay for itself,” said recreation task force member Barrett Nichols. “It could reduce the costs for parents,” in some programs.

Having programs available to students of all socio-economic backgrounds will be an important value in founding a town recreation program, the group agreed as part of its ethic in laying the foundation; they don’t want to have programs which only kids whose parents can write a check can participate in, they agreed.

Proposing a facility that can succeed financially is critical, the group agreed.

D’Olimpio said, “This has to be sustainable; we can’t end up with a beautiful facility that we can’t sustain.”

Task force member Carrie Tomczyk, co-owner of the Village Sports Shop in Lyndonville, said it is the recreational opportunities that drive the region, and bring people here, and it’s businesses that cater to that that are surviving.

“People are moving here for one reason: lifestyle,” said Tomczyk.

“We live here because we want to live in a place that has recreational opportunities, if we present it like that, it’s a no brainer,” she said.

D’Olimpio said she spoke at length with the head of St. Johnsbury’s recreation department, Joe Fox. The town has had a department for 50 years, which St. Johnsbury Academy currently manages.

“It is not realistic to continue to rely on the sweat equity of hundreds of volunteers in our community to continue devoting thousands and thousands of hours of their time without some sort of umbrella organization to help them collaborate and cooperate together,” the group writes.

“A Rec Department is not only an investment in public health, it is an investment in families and the community that will only make Lyndonville more of a destination for young families, college students, young adults and senior citizens,” the group concludes. “We must dedicate money and resources to making this happen.”