By Elizabeth Hacala
Note: This report expands on the Recreation Commission Meeting on January 17, first reported in Recreation Commission Highlights: Springs Brook Will Open for 2017 Season.
On Tuesday, January 17 the Recreation Commission met to continue deliberating the2017 season at Springs Brook Park. Commission Chair Ron Richter opened the well-attended meeting by offering commissioners the opportunity to say a few words. Commissioner Tom Mulligan welcomed the attendees and thanked them for their passion and participation. He encouraged residents to work with the commission as a team. “That is what sports and recreation is about, passion and team,” Richter said. He went on to share that he had worked for the first time at Springs Brook Park raking leaves in 1976, then the following summer at the front gate and that as much as he liked Springs Brook Park, there were many other activities that made up recreation in town: soccer, softball, tennis, basketball, etc.
Richter then addressed the meeting, sharing his feeling that Springs Brook Park is one of the town’s gems. He recognized the need for a swimming option for both Summer Adventures and the general public. One of his goals for Recreation is to help build a sense of community in town. He wanted to ensure we have a recreation department and the revolving funds available to make sure they could provide safe, fresh recreation offerings to the town.
Recreation Director Amy Hamilton pointed out the many meetings the commissioners have had to discuss Springs Brook Park, to assure people they have heard the desires and concerns of the community. She stressed that she and everyone on the commission shared the attendees’ passion for the park. “We are working hard and we have for many years, to make the park the best that it can be.” Hamilton said. She explained that staffing and finances are the two primary issues the Recreation Commission and Recreation Department are tackling, regarding Springs Brook Park. “We cannot jeopardize the rec department by [depleting] the revolving fund and we can’t jeopardize the safety of our residents in terms of staff and our ability to staff appropriately.”
She said they had worked through a variety of models for Springs Brook Park, arriving at one that did not give the public everything they hoped for nor did it completely eliminate risk regarding the revolving fund. The model presented would allow the park to open Tuesday through Saturday. Open swim would be available for Summer Adventures summer camp. All Springs Brook Park amenities would be open during that schedule.
Hamilton stressed that this model was not a cure-all for the park but would lessen the financial loss, estimated at $75-80k, and give all parties involved a chance to reevaluate the level of interest and to work on any potential long-term solutions. She stressed that the support of those people in attendance was critical in the ongoing success of Springs Brook Park. “I look forward to working with you, should that be the route the Recreation Commission decides to take,” Hamilton concluded.
The meeting was then turned over to Commissioner Robin Steele who thanked everyone for their energy. She clarified that the commissioners are all town volunteers and that they are all there because they care about Bedford. She reviewed the status of the revolving fund. Commissioner Steele had reviewed two years of expenses and then charted the income to, and expenses from, the revolving fund. She used that information to project the fund balance for the rest of the current FY17 (ending June 2017) and all of FY18, since the Springs Brook Park season crossed financial years.The resulting model projected a low point for the revolving fund in August 2017 of $91.5K and a high of nearly $534K in May of 2018.
Commissioner Richter expressed concern about the low point projected for August 2017. Commissioner Steele pointed out that her estimates were based on prior years’ memberships and a high level of enthusiasm from the public in recent months. If the public support for Springs Brook Park translated into membership as she hoped there would be more revenue than her model reflected and that dip in the revolving fund would be lessened. She went on to say that some discretionary expenses could be moved to another month to lessen the impact on the revolving fund on that particular month.
After deliberating on the budget issues the commission turned its attention to staffing. Members of the Recreation Department explained there were many concerns with staffing the park including: a statewide shortage of lifeguards, sufficient weekend staff, and the complexities in hiring directors for the park. In addition, if swim lessons were added to the offerings, the staffing needs would be significantly higher, making it even more challenging to staff the park safely.
Members of the community offered several suggestions to the commission and offered to support the Recreation Commission and Recreation Department by getting the word out about job opportunities and memberships. Among the suggestions from the public were:
- Offering early, one-time sales of day-pass ticket books to provide early income.
- Requiring memberships for enrollment in swim lessons, if they are offered.
- Adding limited hours in the early summer for those families who have pre-school children.
In the end, the commission voted 4-1-0 to plan to open Springs Brook Park with a Tuesday – Saturday schedule. There would be an open swim opportunity for Summer Adventures as well as for the public. Swim lessons could potentially be added if staffing allows and would require a membership to the park to enroll. In order to attract lifeguards in this very competitive market, the commission also voted to reimburse half of the certification or recertification costs for any lifeguard who worked the full summer. The vote was met with enthusiasm from the meeting attendees.
Rates for memberships, non-resident memberships, and day passes will be set at a future meeting. The primary concern for Springs Brook Park is still personnel and all plans are contingent on hiring sufficient staff.