Bartnik: State of Mountain Recreation
Beginning in 2017, Mountain Recreation began a journey to understand how we might better serve you and those in our community who we were not yet reaching. Through numerous surveys, open house events, and even over coffee (OK, cocoa for some of us!), we asked what we needed to do to ensure there were opportunities for every age group through every season to be healthy, active, and together.
Thanks to your feedback, we reformulated our strategic plan, invested in our staff, prioritized partnerships, and with a little courage we stepped out of our comfort zone. As a result, we’ve seen our community connect in new ways.
We’ve added outdoor recreation programs, increased summer camp offerings, renovated indoor and outdoor recreation facilities, added fitness equipment, kept facilities and programs open and operating as safely as possible through a pandemic, operated an annual outdoor ice rink in Edwards, began offering special events such as the Chapuzón Latino and the Edwards Outdoor Movie Series, legally changed our special district’s name, and, yes, put All Access Rec on the ballot twice.
We have much to celebrate, but there are also several challenges we’re facing today, and I personally prefer to be transparent about that. Here’s how we are leaning into the short and long-term challenges that face us:
We’ve been prepping to hit the ground running in anticipation of the very real facility needs facing the district — regardless of the outcome of the May election. While the May ask included already scaled-down improvements to focus on immediate needs, the district must now prioritize further to address the most urgent and unavoidable needs. The cost of maintaining what we currently operate will dictate what remaining funds there are for other improvements or expansions.
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Living and breathing Mountain Rec for the past five years, I can tell you that, yes, there is sufficient funding within our existing levy to maintain facilities as they are, and, no, the current levy is not sufficient to make any major improvements, expansions, or renovations that help us better serve you. Large capital replacement projects, such as the Gypsum Rec Center HVAC and roof or the Eagle Pool plastering project, are on our radar and will be able to be funded. Subsurface issues with the Eagle Pool, however, are beyond what was planned in the capital replacement fund. We are engaging the services of professional aquatics contractors to determine the need for repair or replacement in partnership with the town of Eagle.
I am happy to report that our full-time staff has been growing in alignment with (though not fulling matching) our community’s significant increase in demand for youth and adult programming and facility access. As we gear up for summer, we have fewer part-time applications compared to previous years, but we are still on pace to staff our summer programming needs.
Like many recreation agencies across the country, the pause in lifeguard training and certification during the pandemic drastically reduced the pool of certified lifeguards available for hire. Market wage increases are challenges for recruitment of summer camp counselors and outdoor rec staff. We are implementing recruitment incentives to increase our chances of landing you the best team members and to ensure service needs are met. You are likely to see reductions in pool operating hours this summer and combining of camp offerings where staff support is thinner.
We’ve worked hard for a few years now to grow a sense of welcoming for everyone in facilities and programs operated by Mountain Rec. We’ve improved our Spanish-language outreach, we’ve added adaptive supports for those with disabilities, and we’ve become more aware of social constructs seen nationally and in our valley.
We’ve received much positive and some negative feedback about pride flags, use of pronouns, and support for everyone’s right to healthy and happy lives. This won’t stop us from striving towards ensuring everyone who walks through our doors feels a sense of belonging. We have a responsibility to meet community members where they are, seek to understand their lived experience, and deliver recreation services to everyone.
So, what’s next? We will continue to seek out your input on services and programs to make additions and changes that meet your needs. We will continue to seek partners and private funding to make progress on delivering the year-round, broader-serving community centers you desire. We invite you to join us as you are so we can all stay healthy, active, and together in this amazing community!
Janet Bartnik is the executive director at Mountain Recreation. Contact her at JBartnik@MountainRec.org