Saturday, July 18, 2015

New Windham Parks and Recreation director Linda Brooks - By Elizabeth Richards

Linda Brooks, the new Parks and Recreation Director for Windham, is no stranger to this work. For 21 years she was the Parks and Recreation Director in Standish. On June 15th, she jumped into her new position in Windham at one of the busiest times of year.
Brooks has a bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation from the University of Connecticut. She worked in that field for a time before taking on the job in Standish, which began as part-time out of her home and built to full time over the years. In that position, she worked with the parks and recreation committee closely to meet the needs of the residents in the community. Accomplishments include building a skate park, two playgrounds, and an outdoor skating rink.
Brooks said the Windham opportunity presented itself at the right time in life. Her five children are mostly grown, and the Windham position presents new challenges and different opportunities while still being close to her Standish home. 

Parks and Recreation is bustling in the summer months, and Brooks has jumped in with both feet. There are some projects already in motion that the department is looking at to determine the next best steps, including a forest management plan for the Lowell Preserve, which has had some controversy surrounding it, Brooks said. The skate park is also on the radar. Brooks used Windham’s skate park as a model when working on the one in Standish. The skate park has been a great resource to the community, she said, but is in need of some attention and enhancement. Other programs were up and running smoothly when she arrived, she said, such as the summer camp program and Dundee Park. Long term and returning staff in both programs made the transition very smooth for this time of year, said Brooks.

 Another project that was in progress when she arrived is the new playground at Donnabeth Lippman Park. “There are some great Eagle Scout projects already underway there, so that’s nice to see,” said Brooks.

Looking forward, Brooks can see many opportunities to build upon. Sports programs are mainly run by private entities, a model Brooks said she likes. “The recreation department has many things that they can be accomplishing. I always feel it’s good to collaborate with those youth sports organizations,” she said. “We need to look at what those sports organizations might need from us and how we can assist.”
Finding space to locate desired programming is an issue in any community, said Brooks. “I’m kind of thinking outside the box about where those programs might be able to be offered and how,” she said. There has already been an expressed desire for a community center, and that is something the town has considered. 

“It’s nice to think about where the department could go if that resource were available,” said Brooks. “The possibilities are endless when you have a place to bring people together.”

Because the town is so vast, Brooks finds herself venturing out to explore all the recreational opportunities the town has to offer. With people spread out on both ends of town, finding ways to bring them together is a passion of hers, she said. “I like finding that way that families and kids can recreate together and feel like they’re contributing.”

Brooks said they are also looking at re-establishing the recreation committee. There is already a Dundee Park advisory committee, but this would be a general recreation advisory committee. “I can see the value of that,” she said. “I think that much of what we were able to accomplish in Standish was with very valued volunteers. They are the heart of the community and can bring about so much more accomplishment when we are working together as a team. I look forward to getting that back in place,” she said.

Family is very important to Brooks. Her five children are nearing adulthood, she said and they all enjoy family time together, particularly in the outdoors. They also recently bought a house in the center of Bridgton, and much of their spare time will be spent doing renovations.

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