Two months after Spring Brook Park closed for the summer, the reviews are in. And they are unanimous: It was a very good year.
Mary Gallant and Haley Portlock, park directors, presented their assessment to the Recreation Commission on Wednesday.
Raeann Gembis, the Recreation Department’s longtime program coordinator, praised the directors. “They did a fabulous job this summer. They had energy, they had ideas, they understood Springs Brook Park.”
“A lot of people told us they felt the vibe of the park was very different, and kind of made them feel like Springs Brook was a homey place to be, and they were having fun as patrons,” Portlock said.
Gallant emphasized that much of the success is thanks to the dedication and enthusiasm of the lifeguards and “crew.” And those were the result of deliberate policies and practices.
The teenage workforce had three-hour shifts “so they wouldn’t burn out,” Gallant said. “We did a lot of small things to show they were appreciated. I think they enjoyed themselves and hopefully we will have a lotta returnees.”
There has been a shortage of lifeguards in the region for several years, and Gallant said of last summer’s crew, “We hope some will grow through the ranks. We hope that over the next two years there will be an influx of lifeguards from our crew, building from the bottom up.” She added that she hopes to become certified as a lifeguard trainer.
Commission member Ron Richter suggested the creation of an internship program to make summer work at Springs Brook Park more attractive to high school students.
Portlock said the season was enhanced by “a lot of different events,” highlighted by theme days, such as one that featured a town fire engine. The park also celebrated Christmas in July. Then there was “Mermaid Day,” featuring “little dive toys we found in a closet. They were so simple but so effective in creating a community and making people feel more welcome.”
There were a few larger happenings, such as the day celebrating the park’s 50th anniversary. “We definitely want to test the limits of our creativity with events,” she said.
Gallant acknowledged that “we can’t do a 50th anniversary every year, but we can do a Springs Brook Day.” Commission Chair Robin Steele suggested something early in the season to promote additional membership.
The discussion turned to the future. Gallant said she would like to see the park’s operating hours increased next summer.
She pointed out that Sunday opening would allow the park to accommodate more birthday parties, a revenue source. Perhaps this can be accomplished by staggering staff hours, suggested member Mike O’Donnell. Current hours make it difficult to sell passes to “working families,” said Recreation Director Josh Smith. But “I don’t need to be open noon to 7 every day, I know that’s not realistic.”
Gallant also advocated for a return of patrons who live out of Bedford, perhaps a limited number who register for a gathering with family or friends.
“There are lots of things to think about,” said Smith, adding that safety is always his primary concern. He added that the discussion can continue early in 2023. Steele stated, “The commission will support whatever you want to do,”
“I grew up in town and I have a lot invested in this,” said Gallant.