Departing director says not all programs have found a home

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GROTON – With just three months to go before the Recreation Department is terminated, director Liza Judge not only keeps track of ongoing programs, but is busily working to find new homes for them.

“Not all of our programs have found homes elsewhere,” said Judge. “We’re still working on that. I don’t think they all will find homes but hopefully the most popular will. I’m still working on flag football, the music ensemble, the songwriter’s workshop, and the playgroup.

“I just hope that all the programs do find good homes that will be long lasting so they can continue to run,” said Judge, whose own job will come to an official end on June 30 when the Recreation Department dissolves. “So a year from now, or two years from now, I can see that they’re still running. The instructors and volunteers are very devoted and put in huge amounts of time and are never compensated for it.”

Judge said in the years she has worked as recreation director, about 18 percent of the town’s population has made some use of the department’s programs.

“I think the Recreation Department is a very important thing for the town to have,” said Judge, a resident of Prescott Street who has worked for the department since 2000. “Because it’s not just about kids playing; it’s about people getting to know each other and coming to parts of town that they never went to before. It allows both kids and their parents to stay active and gives a chance for those people with special skills to look at the kids and see if there is anything that they could do for them. Those are all things that can help everybody in the long run.”

In a decision taken earlier in the year, the Board of Selectmen decided to allow the Recreation Department to come to an end on June 30, at the conclusion of the current fiscal year. That decision was made with the recent resignation from the Recreation Commission of Peter DiFranco, who was the group’s chairman as well as its last remaining member.

By choosing not to make a request at the upcoming annual town meeting for a renewal of the Recreation Department’s operating budget for fiscal 2007, Selectmen in effect ended the department’s existence. And as a result of the department’s demise, Judge will also lose her job as recreation director.

“I’ll probably stay till the end of the fiscal year,” said Judge. “Soccer starts in April and runs to the end of June then we’re going to be getting equipment off to other organizations. I’ll have plenty to do. Things are still pretty active with our play groups and such.”

In addition, Judge is still looking for volunteers to help install new floating docks at Sargisson Beach; offering “Adventurides” for bicyclists; FlyingsCool fight simulator training; and music ensemble, among other activities.

As for herself, Judge said she plans to be around to turn off the lights and lock the doors at Squannacook Hall when June 30 rolls around.

“Some days it’s difficult,” admitted Judge to overseeing the demise of the Recreation Department. “I don’t know what’s next for me. I need a week off to think about what to do. One of the most difficult things to do sometimes is to figure out what to do next.”

Those interested in any of the programs still offered by the Recreation Department through June 30 can contact Judge at (978) 448-1125 or visit the department at www.grotonrec.org