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Busse describes initiatives to Park and Recreation Commission

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KENT—New Park and Recreation Director Matt Busse has dived into his new job with enthusiasm, developing plans for Emery Park, Camp Kent, senior programs, a logo contest, a Story Book Walk, and even uncovering an unknown trail near Emery Park that leads to a “beautiful waterfall.”

Kent Park and Recreation Director Matt Busse, center, talks with children and After School Program Director Rebecca Thompson at the Meet and Greet event March 14 at Kent Center School that was held for the community to meet the new director who started last month. Photo by Lynn Mellis Worthington

Busse, who met with the public at a meet-and-greet March 14, reported on his progress during the Park and Recreation Commission meeting March 18. He said he is tackling the reallocation of unexpended funds in the Capital Plan, a priority of residents during a recent town meeting.

He said the $150,000 set aside for the swimming area at Emery Park should be used for that purpose. “I would like to see us use the funds within the next two years for the pool,” he said. He recommended that a professional be hired to guide the commission in determining how to revitalize the pool, which has been closed since Covid struck. 

Busse, who has a background in aquatic recreation, said the Emery pool has “strong potential.” “There is definitely a solution for Emery Park,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you right now, but pools have different regulations than ponds. Emery Park is a pond and has different standards. We need to start outlining our goals.”

As to drainage from the state road that runs into the park, he said it must be determined where the boundary lies. He has reached out to surveyor Gary Hock, who drew the 2017 map, for more input. “Depending on where the line falls, we will know if the state or the town has to pay for the drainage.”

Busse said he hiked the trail at Emery Park last weekend and saw a “random trail marker” in the brush. He followed the trail, which is “not recognized on any trail system” and found it led to “a beautiful waterfall.”

Children enjoyed a variety of activities March 14 during the Kent Park and Recreation Meet and Greet event at Kent Center School to introduce Director Matt Busse to the community. Photo by Lynn Mellis Worthington

“It’s not maintained,” he said. “I met with the Kent Land Trust, and we can go ahead and get it formalized.” He said he envisions placing benches at the end so “people can sit and look at the waterfall.” 

He will also cooperate with the Kent Memorial Library to create a Story Book Walk along the main trail. Temporary signs will be placed along the trail through April 15  so families can stop and read an environmentally themed story as they walk.

Moving on to Kent Common playground, he said that the new playground bench is still missing one structural piece and that the nuts and bolts for it became separated from the bench “somehow, somewhere.” “The items needed were not attached when it was delivered,” he said. “The supplier is seeking the missing parts.”

He received enthusiast support for his idea of staging a contest to create a new logo for Park and Rec. The contest would be open to town residents of high school age enrolled in a high school program, whether that be at home, in a private school or at a public school.

“I want to challenge high school students to create a new logo,” he said. “We would give them a palette of colors to use, and then kids in kindergarten through grade 8 would vote on the best logo. We would adopt it and it would become part of the department.”

The commission decided that it would sponsor senior lunches for the next three months, seeking contributions of food from area schools or purchasing food from restaurants.

There was some pushback from the commission about a Social Services policy setting rules for programs at the Senior Center. Park and Recreation has been seeking greater cooperation with Social Services to bring more programs to seniors.

“There is no mention of Park and Rec in the policy,” said Selectman Lynn Mellis Worthington, who is liaison to the commission. “Are they going to treat us like everyone else? It sounds like a duplication of what we already do. I feel we should be in a special category. We wouldn’t make her fill out a form if she wanted to do something in one of the parks.”

“Maybe [Social Services Director Samantha Hasenflue] doesn’t know of our long-standing relationship,” suggested member Blythe Everett.

Busse speculated that Hasenflue wants “to hold everyone to the same standard.” He said he would look into it further.

Busse reported strong response to the survey Park and Rec posted online. He said there were 102 responses so far, 86 in first 14 hours. “It gives us the opportunity to listen to everyone on how we can improve and how we can offer more,” he said. 

He also wants to meet directly with townspeople and received a go-ahead for a “Cookies and Conversation” opportunity on March 27 at the KCS playground. 

Kathryn Boughton
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