Friday, May 24, 2002
A history of recreation in Carlisle . . .
Everyone who thinks of sports, summer camp, and recreation courses thinks of the Carlisle Recreation Department, along with its parent volunteer committee, the Carlisle Recreation Commission (RecCom), which oversees the department. The rec department touches many aspects of Carlisle daily life, from the tennis courts, to the picnic tables, to the sports fields, to video software at the school. "We're a service to the town," Maureen Tarca, chairman of the recreation commission, explained. "It's amazing, the logistics to run a program, whether it's the summer camp, the fall recreation course offering, or an early release ski afternoon."
One of the first dedicated volunteers was Mary Diment, voted Honored Citizen in 1985. When Diment moved to Carlisle in 1950, there were approximately 700 residents. Diment became involved in the recreation commission, eventually serving on the board for 20 years, from 1969 to 1989. In the sixties there were no after-school programs other than Boy Scouts for the boys and 4-H for the girls. Diment, along with other volunteers, helped support programs that still exist today including the swim program, summer arts, tennis, skiing and soccer. Some activities were offered locally and some in Concord or other surrounding towns. But many residents did not want to travel to other towns for recreation activities.
A group of local parents started "Dimensions," offering a variety of after-school activities, which was eventually absorbed into the recreation department. "We were at a shift time," explained Bonnie Greer, who was a founding member. "We were going back to work, or wanting to connect with other parents," and the children needed some activities after school. "I remember my son took a cooking class, and he was this big sports guy," said Neil Driscoll, who served on the recreation commission for 15 years. "He still loves to cook." Dimensions offered courses for children and senior citizens. "My son even taught a fishing class," said Greer. The ski program at Nashoba Valley in Westford started, and the Bill Koch cross-country ski program at Towle Field drew skiers on the weekends.
Spalding and Banta-Davis Fields
The Spalding Field was used for soccer and baseball, but was only a third of the size it is today. "It was in terrible disrepair," said Driscoll, who, along with Neils Larsen, Ping Mei and Grant Wilson started a second- and third-grade soccer program in 1976. The field was expanded to three acres, and Driscoll was in charge of field maintenance and scheduling. With the improved facility, the field was in constant use.
Other volunteers began programs that would eventually be absorbed into the recreation department: the Carlisle Youth Soccer League, a women's soccer league, field hockey teams and youth baseball.
Around 1980 it became clear that Spalding Field was too small for the use it was getting. It was expanded again to its current size of five and one-half acres by adding fill to the back and sides of the field. "It wouldn't be allowed today," Driscoll said, noting that wetlands restrictions in those days were more flexible. Maintenance on the field was still difficult since it was used so frequently. A small field was developed on the Banta-Davis Land, and the recreation commission rotated use between Spalding and the new field. But Spalding dried out in the summer, which made it difficult to keep the grass stable. An irrigation system, still used today, was installed, which helped keep the field green. "We were ahead of the growth curve of the town," Driscoll said of the development of Spalding and Banta-Davis.
Summer camp and tennis programs
Marge McCormick and Cindy Nock joined the recreation commission in the 1980s and began expanding on the summer arts and crafts classes and swimming lessons. Cindy Nock was the volunteer director of the summer program from 1989 to 1997. A summer camp was started, with a swimming program, using local pools. The Carlisle Recreation Trust, a nonprofit organization which provides funds through donations for specific recreation projects, was formed. The tennis courts were originally located in what is today a parking lot. "I remember my husband digging holes for the net posts," Ellen Huber said, recalling the old tennis courts. The Carlisle Recreation Trust raised over $25,000 to resurface the tennis courts at that time.
The department today
The current recreation department has three part-time employees, whose salaries are paid by the town. Jan Deyoe and Cindy Nock are the co-directors of the department. Terri Hoffman is the facilities scheduler, a former volunteer job. Demand for gym and field use makes the task of organizing the schedule complex and time-consuming. Hoffman has the tough job of trying to satisfy all teams' needs for time on the fields and in the gym. Contractor Dan Mosely won the town contract to maintain the Banta-Davis and Spalding Fields. "He's local, and he cares about the fields," said Tarca. "He comes to all the recreation commission meetings." All other instructors are paid through course fees. "We don't have concerns for the current budget woes because we are self-funding," Tarca explained. "We operate with the use of fees and we're not tied to the budget except for the part-time salaries and the field maintenance." The department hires Carlisle teenagers as camp counselors and basketball referees. Carlisle School physical education teacher Philip LaPalme donates his time to train the referees.
The volunteer-based recreation commission includes Tarca, as chair; Mark Spears, who is involved in youth baseball and helps with field maintenance contracts; Mike Brophy, busy with soccer and field hockey; Norm Lind, involved in youth sports including basketball and baseball, and financial advisor to the board; Val Traynor, who supports established programs and helps create new programs. The board meets once a month in the summer and twice a month during the school year.
Parents are recruited for programs such as the Friday afternoon Ski Nashoba and the early release Ski Wachusett. These well-organized events have parent volunteers accompanying the children, using cell phones for communication. "The Ski Wachusett program for fifth- through eighth-graders is totally facilitated by volunteers," explained Tarca. "We couldn't do it without them; it would be too expensive." The basketball program uses volunteer coaches, and some of the soccer games are run by volunteers. But there's always a need for more. "We could use volunteers to answer the phones in the afternoon or be hall monitors for programs like the basketball games," said Tarca.
Fall, winter and spring programs
The recreation department offers courses for children and adults during the fall, winter, and spring. Deyoe and Nock interview potential instructors and evaluate the potential popularity for course ideas. "When the brochure hits the mail, we have lines for the most popular courses," said Tarca. "We usually have waiting lists for tennis. Many members of the Council on Aging take our courses." COA outreach coordinator Susan Evans agrees, saying the watercolor classes and yoga are very well attended. "Seniors would enjoy a music or art appreciation class if it were offered," she added.
Current adult spring courses are watercolor painting, yoga, aerobics, fitness training, Feng Shui, Pilates and T'ai Chi.
The youth programs include pottery, jazz/hiphop dancing, fencing, ice skating, and language classes. Tennis is currently offered for ages preschool through adult. The department does not have one central facility in which to offer classes, but uses a variety of locations: the exercise room and gym at the Carlisle School, the Clark room at the Town Hall, rooms at the First Religious Society, and sometimes instructors' homes. For the future, Tarca envisions a large activity room dedicated to the recreation department courses, where materials could be set up and left for the next session.
The recreation department is responsible for maintenance of the Banta-Davis and Spalding Fields, the tennis courts, and the Diment Tot Lot. "We gave $20,000 back to the town in goods and services this year. It's in our charter," explained Tarca. The department paid for windscreens for tennis courts, new picnic tables and maintenance on the old ones, repairs for the Carlisle Castle playground, new backstops on Spalding, and paved the Banta-Davis driveway. "We work in tandem with the school," Tarca continued, explaining the importance of the relationship between the school and the department. The department relies on the school for recreation facilities and tries to identify areas in which they can give back to the school. "We used $3,000 out of the basketball fee to pay for electronic net lifts and pads on gym walls," Tarca said. "We work with [Carlisle School Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds] David Flannery to identify needs." The summer camp bought video software two summers ago and gave it to the school in exchange for using the school's computers during summer camp. "The goal is to give back to the community," Tarca said. One of the more successful joint programs was the Adventures in Nature class, sponsored by the Carlisle Conservation Foundation, and offered in the fall 2001 recreation department program. "We will repeat that in the future," said Tarca, noting the positive response from the children and the Audubon instructors.
The Carlisle summer camp, called "Carlisle Summer Fun," has grown from a half-day program two years ago into a full-day program. "The goal of the summer camp is quality recreation for all," Tarca said. The camp provides a full day (8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.) of activities for the children grades K through eight, and offers summer jobs for Carlisle teenagers. CIT (counselor-in-training) positions start in eighth grade and full counselors are usually high school sophomores, juniors or older. The positions are popular and Tarca says they have had to turn away applicants. "We try to have the same counselors for the six weeks, but we are flexible." Many of the counselors are returning campers.
K through fourth grade program
The kindergarten-through-fourth-grade camp offers arts and crafts, tennis lessons, outdoor games, yoga, reading time, and performing arts including music, dance, theater and swimming lessons. "We use residential pools, and the town provides insurance," said Tarca. The campers are brought to the pools in small buses. "Without the residential pools the swim program could not exist. We need one or two more pools for this summer." The camp has been using town pools for more than ten years. The camp tries to be family-friendly and offer flexibility, something larger camps may not be able to accommodate. "The beauty of Carlisle Recreation is that it is small enough to be flexible. We can accommodate needs we are a service to the town and not profit-making." Children with handicaps pose the biggest challenge since some camp activities, such as rock-climbing, are not handicapped accessible. Tarca said the camp tries to find ways to include children with various handicaps, but it is important that parents tell the department about special needs. In certain cases the camp can assign a counselor to a child with special needs.
The camp program for grades four through eight is broken into three two-week sessions (A, B, and C). The campers create their own schedules, choosing a morning activity and an afternoon activity for each session. The older campers have more independence and responsibility in creating their camp experience. Choices include swimming, mini- or regular golf, Boston Harbor science cruise, canoe and kayaking, rock climbing, tennis, basketball, archery, fly fishing, video production, pottery, theater, and horse riding. The activities are spread throughout the sessions so campers are able to create schedules with their favorite activities. "Our goal is to have something for everyone," said Tarca. Fourth graders can either attend the K-four or Four-eight camps. Brochures for the summer camp are available at the Town Hall or by calling 1-978-369-9815.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito