Scott Hausler, Certified Parks and Recreation Professional, has been the Hartford Parks & Recreation Director for a full year at the time of this writing. I talked to Scott just after the Fourth of July, and I asked him if the fireworks show was the most dramatic event of the year that the department had to organize. Scott was dismissive of the idea that funding, promoting and organizing a safe and fun holiday for an entire town might be stressful. I should have expected a comfortable confidence, given the resume that speaks to his years of experience. Being a parks director was a role already familiar to Scott before the Hartford Selectboard appointed him to the job.
He does tell me that there’s never a dull moment either. This year the town was unsure of funding for the July fourth fireworks, which caused some extra scrambling. In the end, donations and fundraising helped to provide the community with a magnificent fireworks display.
Scott and his family have lived in Wilder, Vermont since 1993. He and his wife, Pam’s, three children, Brett, Hanna, and Kenna were all born at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and graduated from Hartford High in White River Junction, Vermont. Working as the park director in Claremont, New Hampshire, since 1997, Scott, in 2013, decided to take the assistant director’s job in Hartford to be closer to home.
One of his most memorable accomplishments as the director in Claremont, Scott explains, was getting the new community center completed before he came to Hartford. Now five years old, the building includes an indoor pool, gymnasium, raised running track, and unlimited use possibilities for the Claremont community. Scott admits that being the director compared to the assistant director means less time in the field, being outdoors, but emphasizes that it’s an important challenge to create a balance with office and community time as the department head.
Activities the department has to offer
Harford Parks & Rec helps organize and host events throughout the year and maintains all the ponds and parks that we love to enjoy. Parks & Recreation has more domain than most of us probably realize: weekly camps for kids, the free concert summer series well-known on The Quechee Green, discounted tickets to amusement parks like Six Flags and Bromley, fishing workshops for all different levels of anglers, and marathons like the Hurricane Hill Trail Run — just to name a few. I asked Scott if he thinks the town and villages of Hartford take full advantage of what the department has to offer, and he definitely thinks the department wouldn’t be as big and busy if the community weren’t engaged in participating and volunteering.
“For a community of about 10,000, we’re operating an agency that some larger communities just don’t have. The agency provides a quality of life that other places don’t offer – without our great staff and volunteers we wouldn’t be as half as successful as we are with this size of a department.”
He also notes the impressive outpouring of the community at events like the Quechee Hot Air Balloon Festival. Volunteers support the Festival, and for the first time, this year Parks & Rec offered parking on The Quechee Green by donation only. The donations totaled nearly $10,000 for the Brian Hanson Memorial Athletic Scholarship Fund. This scholarship is available to Hartford residents to provide financial assistance to access Parks & Rec’s activities and programs.
Focus on needed community upgrades
Scott’s larger focus as the director is to address some sorely needed upkeep on some key community buildings. The municipal pool had to shut down this summer due to an excessive amount of water loss last season: an initial inspection found concerns with the gutter system. In response, a Pool Committee was formed by the Hartford Selectboard to identify the best plan for moving forward with the pool. The committee will draw on many resources before passing its findings on to Parks & Rec, and then to the Selectboard. Choices about what to do with the pool could end up on the town meeting agenda and potentially even on the ballot. A survey with questions about pool use, concerns, and ideas is being offered to the public throughout the summer, and a more thorough inspection of the building will be assessed as well.
Starting in October, the Wendell A. Barwood Arena opens up as a huge draw for adult and high school hockey teams, curlers, and ice skaters. Like the municipal pool, the arena has some structural concerns that need to be addressed. Previous repairs cost the town $2.5 million in 2013, and earlier this year close to $600,000 has been approved for the needs of the arena. Scott and his team are hoping to establish a capital reserve fund that would store and save money toward future operational costs of the arena.
It takes an active community to need and support an active Parks & Rec Department, and that speaks to a town’s culture and sense of community. It also takes a dedicated director, staff, and volunteers to make it all happen. To learn more about what activities are available, you can find bi-annual brochures around the villages of Hartford, or check out upcoming events and volunteer needs at the Hartford Parks & Recreation website at www.hartford-vt.org/2212/Parks-Recreation.