Mountain Recreation’s Janet Bartnik accepts position in Virginia
Mountain Recreation announced Tuesday that Janet Bartnik, who has served as the executive director of the recreation district since 2017, will be leaving the position at the end of the month. Bartnik has accepted a position with Prince William County’s Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism in northern Virginia to be closer to her family.
“My father turns 80 this month,” Bartnik said in a news release. “I don’t want to miss out on this time with him. The position in Prince William County affords me the opportunity to be only 40 miles from Dad after all these years of being nearly 1,800 miles away.”
Bartnik will also be vacating her seat on the Eagle Town Council, where she was first appointed in March 2021 to fill a vacant seat. She went on to win a two-year term in the Nov. 2021 election.
Bartnik was raised in Virginia and earned her undergrad and graduate degrees at Virginia Tech. She spent much of her professional career in Parks and Recreation in Missouri before coming to Mountain Rec in 2017.
“By far, the best accomplishment of this board was hiring Janet,” said Liz Jones, Mountain Recreation’s former board president who left the position in September 2022. “Her work to fulfill the expectations of the board has improved the district so much; winning the Vail Valley Partnership’s Organization of the Year after the reorganization and rebranding efforts was confirmation that Janet’s leadership, along with an amazing staff, earned the trust and respect of Eagle County citizens.”
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After coming on board at Mountain Rec, Bartnik was tasked with increasing access to facilities and programs by ensuring diverse and ample offerings to serve a wider breadth of ages, abilities, and interests.
“She set the bar high, coming to the district with over 25 years of extensive parks and recreation, and local government knowledge,” said Scott Ruff, the superintendent of recreation facilities at Mountain Rec. “From the beginning, she opened our eyes to an elevated level of professionalism, allowing us to not only network and collaborate with agencies across the U.S. — but to grow professionally as a staff and develop local partnerships for the betterment of our community.”
“Janet has built her career around the simple yet powerful principle that we are better together. Over the past five and a half years she’s manifested that here — by building a unified district, promoting partnerships, and welcoming everyone to the table,” said Scott Robinson, the superintendent of business operations at Mountain Rec. “There’s a reason why Mountain Rec has a solid foundation allowing it to grow into a key player in the health and wellness of our community. Action speaks volumes, and I’m proud to have been in the arena working alongside her.”
Early on in her role, Bartnik led the district to a KaBoom! grant in partnership with Eagle County Public Health, which utilized a community-build project to bring a playground, exercise stations, and turf to Dotsero Mobile Home Park residents. Not long after, Bartnik shepherded the rebranding of the district, including a 2018 renaming from Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District — a mouthful of a name that had stuck around for more than 40 years — to Mountain Recreation. In concert with board and staff, the district developed a new website intended to improve customer service and create transparency for government information.
Other initiatives included working with the town of Gypsum to renovate the Gypsum Recreation Center’s fitness area and restructure facility memberships to include fitness classes, child watch, and tumble tots within the membership rate. In Eagle, a new concessions and restroom building was constructed at the Eagle Sports Complex. In Edwards, Bartnik worked with staff, partners, and volunteers to lead the charge for the addition of an outdoor ice rink in Freedom Park during the pandemic. The rink has quickly expanded to meet demand and is now set for two sheets in winter 2023 to 2024.
Under Bartnik’s leadership, the district also launched an ambitious facilities upgrade proposal known as All Access Rec that asked voters for a substantial property tax increase. Voters twice rejected the proposal, first in the November 2021 election at an asking price of $60 million where the measure was narrowly defeated by around 261 votes. A pared-down version of the All Access Rec plan, at an ask of $40 million to voters, was then defeated six months later in the May 2022 election by a margin of nearly 3-1.
The measure would’ve funded improvements to Mountain Recreation’s three facilities in Gypsum, Eagle and Edwards, including new or improved facilities and equipment as well as making the facilities into more multi-use community spaces.
“I know that the work that we did in 2019 showed us that there is interest in having those projects and I know that the voters voted down the ballot, they voted down the tax increase,” Bartnik told the Vail Daily after the May 2022 vote. “The only way I can marry those two in my brain is to consider that the projects were desired, just voters weren’t willing to pay for them.”
In addition to facility enhancements, Mountain Rec established a partnership with SOS Outreach to grow the reach of outdoor recreation programs in the valley, developed a partnership with Small Champions to provide accommodation services so that everyone in the community can participate in programs regardless of their ability, and partnered with Eagle County Healthy Aging and others to grow access to active older adult programming. On top of that, the district created a community partnership grant program to help partners whose mission aligns in helping the community.
“Janet has always looked at the bigger picture to deliver on community-driven needs, create genuine connections, and ensure everyone gets to play,” said Anna Englehart, the superintendent of recreation programs at Mountain Rec. “At the district she’s been a mentor, supporting staff when needed but also stepping back and trusting our own individual expertise… and personally, she’s been a role model and mentor, a mom who knows the balancing act of family and work — and knowing family comes first.”
“Despite the fun of community-building projects and programs, the one thing I am most proud of is the work we’ve done to build a strong staff team and robust culture,” Bartnik said. “Not only have we created flexibility for team members, but we’ve also created space for succession planning and professional growth and development. Mountain Rec is regularly training its team members in-house and offering opportunities to grow through outside professional development activities. And our efforts are reaping results with many state and national recognitions, and professional certifications.”
Mountain Recreation’s board of directors will begin conducting a search process for the district’s next executive director. In the interim, the district’s three superintendents: Scott Ruff, Anna Englehart and Scott Robinson will be the interim team of leaders with Barnik providing consulting support from afar.
To help with the hiring process, the board has contracted with a third-party professional recruitment firm, Columbia ltd. The board, Columbia ltd., and district staff will collaborate to determine what the district needs from an executive director.
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