Ledyard parks and rec, senior center join forces

Ledyard — Starting in mid-August, the Parks and Recreation Department will have a new home at 12 Van Tassell Drive in Gales Ferry.

The relocation from the Board of Education building comes with a consolidation that will combine Parks and Recreation and the senior center, which was formally announced at the July 24 Commission for Senior Citizens meeting. Mayor Fred Allyn III said the idea had been in discussions for about a decade but had precipitated recently with the June resignation of senior center Director Pamela Cadro.

He said the move is a good opportunity to streamline operations and bring more people and activities to an underutilized facility; currently it's open only from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. during the week, and he said only about 0.5 percent of residents ages 55 and older attend programs there.

Parks and Recreation Director Scott Johnson, who took over after the April retirement of longtime Director Don Grise, also will serve as the interim director of the senior center. All staff in both departments now will be housed at the senior center. The school board will expand into the vacated office space at 4 Blonders Blvd., while Parks and Recreation will retain use of its storage space in the basement.

Johnson said it's been a busy few months, with wet weather delaying park and field maintenance in the spring and camp this summer, so the move was scheduled to avoid the busiest part of the season. He said it will be more work for the staff to take on another department, but the Ledyard VNA has been assisting in keeping senior services going in the meantime, and Parks and Recreation can easily absorb the senior center scheduling duties into its existing system.

"We were excited to go in there and bring what we have to offer to the senior center," he said.

The move will allow Parks and Recreation to use the space after hours, which will be especially helpful in the summer when the schools are closed in the evenings for offseason work. The department also has a strong base of instructors to maintain and expand classes and programs at the senior center.

Naomi Rodriguez, who serves on both the Parks and Recreation and senior commissions, said the move is a big change but also a logical and practical one. She said one of the benefits will be bringing more attention to the senior center, since many residents don't know where it is. She's currently one of the administrators on the senior center Facebook page, alongside Parks and Recreation staff, and the page already has seen a lot more traffic and engagement since the collaboration.

She said she thinks the Parks and Recreation Department and the senior center are a great combination and the center is in capable hands.

Editor's note: Ledyard Parks and Recreation office assistant Laurie Marcotte, one of three Parks and Recreation employees impacted by the move, is the reporter's mother.

a.hutchinson@theday.com

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