This past year may be remembered as the year of COVID-19, but I prefer to see it as the year our community came together like never before to push our valley forward. And I am proud to say that Mountain Recreation, and its staff, played an instrumental role as a community health leader.
We will continue to operate our facilities and programs to fulfill our mission. We will keep our eyes on the horizon that awaits us as we seek to convert recreation centers into community centers. And, of course, there will be some things we simply cannot forecast. Together, we will continue to take risks, generate amazing ideas, listen to each other, make mistakes, connect with each other and the community, and move forward… with collective purpose.
Reopening the District
It is difficult to believe that Eagle County was once the leading hotspot for COVID-19 in Colorado. Thanks to swift action and a joint effort between private and public health, local leaders, and our community, we quickly were on track to flatten the curve and recover ahead of the nation. In April, the district set its eyes on reopening to help our community heal through recreation.
There was no playbook for how to provide recreation services during a pandemic. We took that challenge head on working with Eagle County Public Health and our fellow recreation providers (including Vail Recreation District, Town of Avon, and Crown Mountain) and wrote hundreds of pages of new program and facility protocols. Our staff showed tremendous courage as we opened the Gypsum Rec Center on May 11th – The first recreation center in the state to reopen. The hard work of your local recreation professionals didn’t go unnoticed, as requests came pouring in from across the state and country to borrow our protocols.
In June we opened the outdoor pool in Eagle and by summer’s end, we had more visits to the pool in 2020 than in 2019. As of October, all of our facilities in Gypsum, Eagle, and Edwards were reopened and offering programs following similar protocols and in compliance with Eagle County Public Health.
Above and Beyond Despite a Global Pandemic
Thanks to staff and partners, 2020 was filled with plenty to be thankful for.
- It was the inaugural year for the new Edwards Outdoor Ice Rink.
- We were honored as the Vail Valley Partnership’s 2019 Organization of the Year.
- We received a $325,000 grant from the Colorado Health Foundation – which includes a new $20,000 scholarship for anyone that was financially impacted by COVID.
- Additionally, we joined forces with Eagle County Government at the onset of COVID-19, by lending our entire marketing department to work full-time for the county to assist with communications.
With new health protocols in place, our staff offered as many youth and adult programs as possible, including seeing over 2,000 kids through sports leagues and clinics, offering summer camps across the valley, reopening our learn to swim, learn to ice skate, and gymnastics programs. Not to forget receiving tens of thousands of reservations for fitness floor and fitness class reservations.
Where we’re headed in 2021
I am excited to hit the ground running and look forward to exciting opportunities and milestones coming in 2021. The first of which comes as our full-time staff & board embark on inclusion and belonging training. We have started a new Latino Advisory Committee and staff will undergo Spanish classes in partnership with Colorado Mountain College. In April we expect to complete the new concessions and rest room facility at the Eagle Sports Complex, completely funded by the district’s savings. Additionally, we are picking up where we left off pre-pandemic completing master plans for all of our recreation centers to convert them to community centers.
There has never been a time where it has been more important to invest in ourselves, our neighbors, and our valley to regain our quality of life. The goal is not simply to get back to normal, the goal is to be better.
Janet Bartnik is the Executive Director of Mountain Recreation. To be added to her weekly message to the Mountain Rec Board of Directors, send her an email: JBartnik@MountainRec.org