Friday, November 26, 2010
Carlisle’s Recreation Department serves all ages
Since Carlisle’s Recreation Department has been in the news recently as a possible candidate for regionalization, it makes sense to take a look at what it does. What is the role of the Recreation Department, how does it accomplish its mission and what are its goals for the future?
The department provides recreation programs for children and adults. It is also responsible for maintaining the sport facilities in town, including athletic fields, tennis courts and the temporary skating rink setup during the winter in Kimball’s parking lot. The size and programs offered have changed over the years (see box, page 7), from its beginnings as a volunteer group to the present, where a director works full-time to coordinate activities.
The Recreation Commission (RecCom) is a group of five volunteers appointed by the Selectmen to oversee the administration of the department as well as to plan and to implement new initiatives. Chaired by Mark Spears, members include Dave Moreau, Richard Amodei, Jeff Bloomfield and Noreen Ma.
The number and variety of programs have increased significantly since Holly Hamilton Mansfield was hired as the first full-time recreation director in the fall of 2007. During 2006, there were 15 autumn program options for children and eight for adults. In the fall of 2010 there were 15 classes for pre-schoolers, 35 for school aged children and 39 for adults. However, only between a third and a half of the programs offered have sufficient enrollment to run.
In the 2010 Fall Recreation brochure there was a wide variety of classes for Carlisle residents to choose from. A few popular programs have been offered for many years, while other programs are offered in new areas. Parents with pre-schoolers could choose sports such as T-ball, basketball, fitness and dance. Sign language for babies and parents, art and music as well as several themed tea parties were also options. For school-aged children, the Recreation Department offered art, music and sports classes as well as classes in life skills such as sewing, babysitting and star gazing. For adults, Mansfield assembled an assortment of programs for any interest ranging from Pilates, cooking, art, mysticism, finance, music, dancing, rock climbing and gardening (this is in no way an exhaustive list). There were even opportunities for families to learn skills together such as rock climbing or kayaking.
Classes self-supporting, participation mixed
This past fall, five of the 15 pre-school classes had enough enrollment to run. Sixteen of the 35 youth classes and 16 of the 39 adult classes ran.
According to Mansfield, the goal of the department is to run a class if there is enough enrollment to break even. Enrollment data was requested, but was not provided by presstime. Mansfield will occasionally run classes with under-enrollment to encourage and build participation. When classes are cancelled, payments received by credit card are refunded by check. When payment is by credit card, the credit card company charges a 3% fee. That fee is still incurred when a class is cancelled. Mansfield says the loss (which totaled $2,456 in FY10) is worth the convenience to patrons paying by credit card.
Classes are designed to be self-supporting and revenue from classes goes into the department’s 53D revolving account. In FY10, the revenue was $133,325. Approximately 18% of the course fees are returned to the town’s General Fund. Summer program wages ($19, 439), credit card processing fees ($2,455) and other supplies ($87,349) were expenses taken out of the account. When the fiscal year ended on June 30, the 53D account had a balance of $50,484.
Summer program enrollment declines
One of the responsibilities of the recreation director is to operate the summer program. The program has been in existence for 20 years in various forms. In the past it has been offered to students through grades 8 or older, with the highest enrollments usually in the younger grades. Enrollment has been dropping, due in part to the declining student population. This year it was offered to children entering kindergarten through grade five and approximately 60 children participated. There were seven paid staff members. According to Mansfield, despite the lower participation, the program remains profitable.
Just as the number of programs offered by the department has increased, so has the budget. The FY07 budget for recreation was $86,271. The FY11 recreation budget is $112,635, down from FY10’s budget of $116,462. The director’s salary is $62,381.
Field and facilities maintenance accounts for $50,254. A gift account of $20,590 helps to provide additional maintenance and enhancements to Carlisle’s sports fields. The money in the account comes from donations made by the Concord-Carlisle Youth Soccer and Concord-Carlisle Youth Baseball/Softball organizations, the biggest users of the fields. This year after a hot dry summer, money from the gift account will be used to help pay for aerating and reseeding to reconstruct the playing surfaces at Spalding and Banta-Davis fields.
The RecCom has continued to support the use of organic materials in maintaining the fields, however, the organic approach is more costly and may not be as effective with challenging conditions such as this past summer. One possible but costly solution is biannual aeration and over-seeding, which is the approach Concord uses with its fields.
In 2005 the RecCom wrote a five-year plan which was published in the Open Space and Recreation Plan. According to the plan, the RecCom identified several needs:
At this point, five years later, they are working with the Trails Committee to create a new path between the Spalding and Banta-Davis Fields. The commission has rights to space on the Benfield property which could someday be used for an additional playing field, though construction is not planned near-term. They are also represented as a potential user of the Highland Building, if and when the renovations are complete.
Long-term RecCom member and present chair, Mark Spears observes, “My current feel for recreational resource status is that we have been ‘on hold’ for new projects that require taxpayer contributions, since the failure of the vote for the Banta-Davis Complex completion program a few years ago. That program took a lot of energy and staff hours to put together and the loss [in a close contest at the polls] took a lot of momentum out of our growth plans. Then, considering that the economic climate in the community has since declined, we have been reluctant to pursue that project again or any other projects requiring a large investment by the townspeople.”
Looking forward, he continues, “We continue to be open-minded for community projects with contributory funding, and will also attempt some small growth projects (under $100,000) for 2011, primarily in the pathways category. There are some items in the OSP [Open Space and Recreation Plan] that continue to be needed and highly desired by many within the town. Specifically, the tennis courts, basketball courts and a community recreation center are top candidates, and the pathway projects are always increasing in demand. I would personally like to re-gauge our five-year plan to include all of these items, but we have not addressed this five-year projection as a group. It’s a good candidate for our agenda.” ∆
A brief history of Carlisle’s Recreation Department
The Recreation Department has been around in various forms since the 1960s. Mary Diment chaired the Recreation Commission (RecCom) between 1969 and 1989. During that time the RecCom began summer swim lessons taught in local pools and helped expand recreation opportunities to meet the needs of Carlisle’s growing population. The parent-run Dimensions program offered after-school activities, and was eventually absorbed into the Recreation Department. Around 1980 Spalding Field was expanded to its current size, and later the first playing field was built on the Banta-Davis Land. More athletic fields were added later.
During the next decade the summer arts and crafts classes, swim and tennis lessons and other activities were combined into a half- or full-day summer program for children in grades K-8. In 1997 Carol Peters and Deb Darago were instrumental in organizing the Carlisle Recreation Enrichment Program which offered courses such as rocket science, karate, chess, German language and sewing.
The Recreation Department was run primarily by volunteers until 1999, when Peters convinced the town to establish a paid part-time recreation director position. Jan Deyoe was hired as the first recreation director. Soon after, Cindy Nock joined Deyoe and they became co-directors until 2007 when the RecCom recommended hiring one full-time director and Holly Mansfield was hired in the fall of 2007. Marcy Guttuduaro joined the department as the assistant director, for two years. At present, Mansfield is the only paid employee. ∆
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