While there isn’t much happening outside right now due to Covid, New Gloucester’s Parks & Recreation programs are buzzing.
When Sarah Rodriguez took the reins as director of the department in the fall of 2020, she was already very familiar with New Gloucester’s programs. Sarah and her family have lived in town since 2016, and she was the recreation program director for Gray Parks & Recreation. She and New Gloucester’s former director, Morgan Rocheleau, had collaborated on a number of initiatives and had worked together to start the expansion of the Gray Kids’ Club program into New Gloucester. Kids Club at the New Gloucester Community Building has 20 kids enrolled in a flexible program, to accommodate Covid circumstances, from before and after school care and remote days to full remote days, following the school district’s schedule. There are 10 staff, with 3 or 4 on at a time.
Sarah grew up working in parks and recreation programs, evolving from hosing kids off in a summer pool program to getting a degree in the field at Aurora University in Ohio. From there, she did an internship in a Colorado aquatics program that grew into a full-time job as program manager. Prior to moving to Maine, she managed a recreation program for the City of Boulder.
In 2016, Sarah became the recreation program manager for the Town of Gray, running youth sports and other non-childcare programs.
“I’m a collaborator at heart,” she notes, “ we’re stronger working together.”
Sarah and Morgan Rocheleau worked closely together to ensure that there was continuity in programs offered in both Gray and New Gloucester. Soccer, for example, had offerings for one age group in Gray and another in New Gloucester. They talked with families and community members, and moved the whole program, serving three-year olds through 6th graders, to the NG Fairgrounds, so that families with multiple players didn’t have to drive back and forth dropping off and picking up kids at different times and locations.
It’s been a challenging winter, but Sarah hopes to have basketball, and moving cheering from zoom to face-to-face practice. Plans are afoot for family snowshoeing, spring track, flag football and lacrosse. This summer, she hopes to be able to offer the Leaders in Training program in New Gloucester to work on community projects, such as trail building around town hall. For adults, spring and beyond may include pickle ball, softball and flag football.
But future planning needs to build on what people would like to see, working with the select board, committees and the community. “The comprehensive plan will be important to that planning,” she said.