Cindi Wight isn’t one to sit still for too long. It’s a good thing her job as Recreation Director for the Rutland Recreation & Parks Department provides her with the perfect outlet for that energy. Her office at the Dana Rec Center is a testament to the kinetic nature of her job-equipment checklists and reminders of upcoming events and activities on the blackboard, clipboards tracking community garden plots, and the colorful Pine Hill Park bulletin board, which serves as both a informational resource and a cheerful collage marking the past achievements of what many in the recreation community regard as the City’s greatest treasure.
Originally from LeRoy, N.Y., Wight has been with the Rec Department since moving to Rutland with her family eight years ago. Since her arrival, she has felt right at home.
“Rutland’s the perfect size,” Wight said.
From a programming perspective, Rutland’s population is robust enough to develop a number of activities, but also small enough so that it’s manageable, which allows her to put her energy into a variety of areas.
Those areas have ranged from coordinating traditional athletic programs like the women’s rugby league – which Wight is proud to note was No. 1 in New England last year – to the Rutland Youth Theatre, whose Traveling Shakespeare Program performs throughout the area.
Another passion of Wight’s has been Pine Hill Park. As the City’s liaison for the Pine Hill Partnership, a nonprofit formed to steward the 300 acres and 14 miles of trails that comprise the park, Wight has been committed to developing the park as a premier recreation destination since improvements on the park began almost a decade ago.
She is thrilled to see how far the park has come, and is quick to tout the recent national attention it has been getting from trail enthusiasts. “Did you see the ‘Ride Guide’ episode?” she asked, speaking of the television crew from the globetrotting extreme sports program that visited Rutland recently. (A link to the episode can be found at the park’s Web site at http://www.pinehillpark.org.).
Beyond theatre and recreation, Wight also oversees the Rec Department’s Community Garden Program. For the last several years, Wight has coordinated the plots, and worked to make the space accessible to all Rutlanders. So far it has been a resounding success. With more than 60 plots, the gardens on Woodstock Avenue are rapidly approaching capacity.
When asked about plans for expanding the gardens in the future, Wight is excited about the possibilities.
“Ideally, I want to reach a point where we have neighborhood gardens around the city where people will be able to grow closer to home.”
Wight’s optimism has been buoyed by recent partnerships with organizations like the Rutland Area Farm & Food Link and Sustainable Rutland, with whom the Rec Department helped to open a student garden behind the Rutland Middle School and is currently discussing additional school and community gardening opportunities.
Off-duty, Wight remains just as active. When not hiking with her family – she’s been tackling the Appalachian Trail with her daughters – she’s lacing up her skates for her adult hockey league.
“It’s something I picked up late in life, but I absolutely love it,” she said of the sport.
While some people may have been too intimidated to pick up such a physical sport as an adult, Wight jumped at the challenge. And she urges more women to do the same.
“So many women never had the opportunity to play sports when they were younger,” she said. “I’d love to create a summer program that teaches women sports that they might have missed out on.”
She cited Rutland’s women’s indoor soccer league as a prime example, but wants to see more.
Indeed, there are a number of programs that Wight envisions as she looks toward the future – a future which she hopes will include a brand new Community Center at Giorgetti Park. In addition to neighborhood gardens, she expressed her desire to see neighborhood trail networks that would “get people outside more.”
Another piece to the recreation puzzle, according to Wight, is increasing outreach and encouraging young people to be more physically active.
“Some kids miss out on opportunities because they don’t have a ride or their parents can’t afford it,” Wight said, “We have to get them engaged, too.”
Wight noted that there are a number of recreation scholarships available for children, and encourages parents to take advantage of them. However, she views transportation as a barrier for some children.
“There are parents who work in the evening, or may not have a car. How do we get those kids involved?”
While she acknowledged that there is no easy answer, Wight is committed to continuing to provide a variety of inclusive and accessible programs.
In the immediate future, these programs include planning the 50th Annual Halloween Parade. This year, a week of Halloween-themed events will mark the historic anniversary, including an exhibit at the Chaffee Art Center, a 5k costume run, a live performance of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” and of course, the parade itself.
“I love the parade,” Wight said excitedly.
Aside from helping to coordinate the floats and route, Wight will once again be sharing emceeing duties for the PEGTV broadcast, a job that she “thoroughly enjoys.”
Of course, there won’t be much time to sit back and relax after the parade rolls past. Winter sports leagues and programs will be under way, and the delicate balancing act of fitting a large number and variety of programs into a very limited physical space will require some careful attention.
And then there’s department’s renewed effort to build support for the new community center, whose fate will be in the hands of voters in March. While pulling it off will be no small feat, Rec Superintendent EJay Bishop can rest assured knowing that dedicated individuals such as Wight will be right there by his side
SIDEBAR :: Community Center may be in Rec Department’s future.
Talk of a new recreation center in Rutland has been around for so long that it has become the stuff of urban legends in these parts – like the City-Town merger or the railyard relocation. But now it looks like Rutland’s closer than ever to having a new rec center.
Being billed as the “Community Center @ Giorgetti Park,” the facility will expand upon the current rink/skate park structure, adding a multiuse athletic complex, an indoor track, and administrative offices for both the Recreation & Parks Department and the Rutland Boys & Girls Club.
Stepping back from the regional proposal that struggled to gain support, this plan is focused solely on Rutland City, and comes in with a much smaller price tag (around $4 million). The success of this plan, however, hinges on city residents’ willingness to take on that cost in the form of a taxpayer-approved bond, which translates to about $17 per household.
Cindi Wight, Recreation Director for the Rec Department is optimistic about the center’s chances.
“This plan is definitely more doable,” she said, acknowledging the struggles of the previous regional plan.
A walk through the Rec Department’s current headquarters in the former Dana School on East Center Street reveals the need for a larger and more modern space. Indeed, Wight notes that juggling the large number of programs in the current location is at times a Herculean feat, especially during the winter months.
“We’ve got basketball, the youth theatre and more all competing for the same space,” Wight said of the current center’s limited capacity. “At times, it can be difficult to accommodate everyone, but we do our best.”
Wight is also excited about the inclusion of the Boys & Girls Club, who would vacate their downtown location if the plan goes forward.
“I think it will take away some of the barriers the Club currently has, and expand its appeal as a place where kids from all ages and backgrounds can congregate.”
The final decision, however, lies in the hands of city voters. While the timing may be less than ideal in the current economic climate, Wight is hopeful that city residents will show their support for the plan in March.