Mountain Recreation earns Organization of the Year award from Vail Valley Partnership
District has embraced its role in the valley's health system for fostering community connections
Mountain Recreation’s guiding tenet is simple and direct: “We believe everyone deserves to be healthy and happy.”
It has also been the cornerstone as the organization reimagined, redefined,
and re-energized itself. A new name, logo, programs and structure has resulted in a rebirth of sorts in Eagle County, and all that effort earned Mountain Recreation the Vail Valley Partnership’s Organization of the Year Award for 2020.
“We are all so incredibly humbled to receive this designation,” said Mountain Recreation Executive Director Janet Bartnik. “I am so impressed by the work the board members and staff have done as a team to change the way we do business in such a short period of time. To create consistency and cohesion across the district and at the same time to focus on equity, inclusion, health and community is something to be proud of.”
With studies showing that improvements in behavioral health are realized by deepening social connections between members of the community, Mountain Recreation has embraced its role in the health system.
“This is even more important as we help our community recover and heal from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Scott Robinson, Mountain Recreation’s superintendent of business operations. “The program and facility social distancing protocols our staff has created are being utilized across the country to help other communities reopen.”
“We are setting the bar for how to reopen recreation nationally, and I’m proud of our staff and fellow recreation providers in Eagle County for taking on this challenge,” Bartnik said.
Robinson noted that Mountain Recreation programs and facilities provide opportunities to decrease social isolation, disconnect from technology and make new friends. Combined, all five of Mountain Recreation’s indoor and outdoor facilities see more than 250,000 visitors a year from Edwards to Gypsum, including both locals and visitors. He noted that beyond enriching the lives of residents and users, Mountain Recreation programs and facilities also enhance economic vitality in the Eagle Valley.
Reaching out, growing use
By reducing barriers that impact access to critical social and physical health centers, the Gypsum Recreation Center welcomed more than 123,000 visitors and saw a 100% increase in the number of fitness classes that were offered from 2018 to 2019. Recognizing the growing senior population in the community, Mountain Recreation added more classes during the day to meet their needs. In response, there was a 64% increase in senior visits over 2018.
Believing every child deserves the right to play alongside their peers, regardless of their parents’ ability to pay, Mountain Recreation expanded its scholarship program last year. The rec district reached out for partners and secured an additional $30,000 (a 150% increase) from Eagle Valley Behavioral Health to add to its initial $20,000 scholarship budget.
In 2019, Mountain Recreation had more than 2,700 participants in its youth sports leagues, camps and clinics, 11% higher than 2018 participation.
The RecRX program was launched and had its first participants in 2019. Participants obtain a doctor’s prescription recommending physical activity to improve individual health, and through the program both they and their family receive a free membership to the Edwards Field House and Gypsum Recreation Center for three months to build positive physical activity habits.
Through a partnership with Neighborhood Navigators and MIRA Bus, Mountain Recreation launched adult swimming and learn to ice skate lessons taught in Spanish. The district also launched Spanish language communications in 2019, including its bilingual social media posts, youth program brochure, summer camp printed materials and new facility signs. Fitness staff has partnered with Red Canyon High School to offer after-school weightlifting classes to better connect students to each other and the community. An entirely new program department was founded through a partnership with SOS Outreach aimed at introducing the community to the great outdoors.
Mountain Recreation has followed a systematic process of listening to the community, planning improvements, and delivering programs and services in response in its efforts to understand and meet community needs.
In response to community input, the Mountain Recreation board approved a strategic plan with seven priorities. One of those goals is to convert recreation centers into community centers and expand district facilities to meet the community’s needs. In 2019, Mountain Recreation staff and the board worked diligently with partners, planners, consultants and the community to create Master Plans for each of the district’s three service areas in Edwards, Eagle and Gypsum.
Proposed facility upgrades have been designed to help combat the community’s mental health concerns.
“Mountain Rec locations will evolve from rec centers to multi-cultural and multi-generational community centers, while also housing several prosocial, health-focused nonprofits,” said Robinson. “Stay tuned and hold on to your hats.”