After taking the helm of the Buena Vista Recreation Department in spring 2019, Recreation Director Earl Richmond is looking to the future. With 15 years already dedicated to recreation through his presence on the Recreation Advisory Board, Richmond is in a great position to move forward.

“I stepped into a great team. I already had a great relationship with Shane Basford, and it was a good setup to keep the ball rolling,” said Richmond. “We didn’t have to stop the momentum. I was already in the know with these projects, and this allowed us to keep moving forward at a high pace.”

With new programs in their first year of operation, Richmond advocates for a community centered, input-driven approach to program building.

Photo courtesy of the Wyoming Humanities Council.

“Baseball is brand new this year. We took over the U-12 kid-pitch, the U-9 machine-pitch and the tee-ball programs,” explained Richmond. “We took it over from the BV Baseball Association. It’s a big number of kids doing some great things out there. It’s been very successful.”

The BV Recreation Department, however, is not running the program alone. A point that Richmond highlights.

“We are working with the BV Baseball Association’s board,” said Richmond. “They didn’t just turn it over and leave, but have stayed on as advisors. It’s such a big, intricate program that involves field scheduling, maintenance, training umpires, game scheduling, and concessions.”

Richmond says the guidance of the Buena Vista Baseball Association has proved instrumental to the baseball program’s success in its first year under BV Recreation. The program currently has more than 130 kids participating across all three leagues.

“[The BV Baseball Association] actively worked with the town this year to be advisors,” said Richmond. “To make sure we were doing things the right way, to answer questions, and to make sure the quality was maintained.”

As BV Recreation continues to grow, Richmond says he is encouraging these types of collaborative programming efforts.

“[The BV Rec baseball programming] really creates an awesome model for the future,” said Richmond. “BV Rec is willing and able to assist with fostering programs and to take over programs when the timing is right. Having them to guide us is super beneficial. It can be a challenge when someone dumps a program on you. For big ones, like baseball, it’s great to have this collaboration with them. They’ve given us the confidence to [run it] in a good fashion.”

Along with the expanded programming, Richmond says he has prioritized upgrades to existing facilities.

“One of our goals in the Rec Department is to maintain what we have,” said Richmond. “We want to show our commitment to the town that the facilities we have are going to be up-kept and maintained, but also beautified for people who are renting it.”

Recently, Richmond oversaw improvements to the Buena Vista Community Center; where the Recreation Department offices are located.

The improvements included brand new flooring and trim. The work, says Richmond, was badly needed; the flooring hadn’t been touched since 1984.

“[The floor] was old, white linoleum tiles, which were functional, but were starting to swell and come apart,” said Richmond.

The community center has seen improvements in its appearance, and in its use.

“People rent the community center for family reunions, gatherings, social events and birthday parties, but programming also leans on these facilities,” said Richmond. “We have art classes, adventure camps, young at heart, and dance classes.”

The variety of programming appeals to individuals of all demographics, interests, and abilities, which Richmond says is a priority for him personally, as well as to the Recreation Department. A great example, he says are the dance classes.

“Our dance class is being super-well received. People just dig it. It’s all ages, all abilities, and the new flooring makes it a better dance environment,” said Richmond.

In his new role only a short few months, Richmond and his team say they are working to transform the Recreation Department’s momentum into tangible programming, and there’s more coming.

“We’re working on repairing some areas of degradation at the skate park,” explained Richmond. “We have local contractors bidding on maintenance and flat work expansion. We are trying to pull off about 2,000 square feet of flat concrete to increase our buffer areas; more room for kids to warm-up and to get their feet under them.”

The old skate park, a concrete slab just west of the community center, will receive another improvement to Buena Vista’s recreation facilities.

“The long-term plan is to create a pickleball facility with lights, fencing, and windscreens,” said Richmond. “That’s a big discussion for 2020 capital improvements.”

With Buena Vista’s rapid growth comes the diversifying of individual interests and passions. While the Recreation Department want’s to maintain its current programming, expansion is a top priority.

“We want to stay current with new trends and new desires and not miss out on opportunities,” said Richmond. “We have a young generation here that we want to take care of, but we also want to take care of our aging population and our seniors.”

Richmond cites sand vollyball as an example of this view point. “Sand volleyball is a very fast-growing sport nationally. We want to make sure that our youth and adult populations and guests have access to it,” said Richmond. “We are working on getting our sand from ACA, it’s called masonry sand. This should be done by early July [2019]. We are looking to get about 500 tons of sand relocated to replace the old sand … getting all new nets and all new lines.”

With a growing interest in volleyball and other outdoor sports, says Richmond, the Buena Vista Recreation Department is looking at implementing two new leagues for next year.

“A 2020 consideration is a grass-volleyball league and a spike-ball league,” said Richmond. “Spike-ball is something we will bring into the programming opportunities for 2020. They are not a huge investment, and we can do a couple spike-ball tournaments and drop-ins once a week.”

Spike-ball, a variation of volleyball, is an active, team-oriented competition involving four players and a round net stretched tightly on a frame slightly above the ground. The game is played in teams of two, and players volley the ball back and forth without letting it hit the ground.

Richmond says he’d like to see long term recreation projects include trail construction in the Midland Hill area. The added trail systems will keep hikers and bikers off of County Road 304.

“Phase 1 of our three trail developments is done,” said Richmond. “It is being tagged as Ramsour South. Phase 1 was about 2.5 miles of single-track connecting Camp Elevation to the parking-lot area of Gentleman’s Loop … the goal of all of these is to keep people off vehicular-traffic areas.

Phase 1 (Ramsour) of the trail construction in Midland is complete

“These trails are all single-track, human powered, and non-motorized,” said Richmond.

They will also provide additional trail options for hikers and bikers while reducing the impacts of heavy usage.

Additionally, the Recreation Department is looking to construct a park at Sunset Vista. The development is located on the edge of town off Rodeo Rd.

“The developer set aside two lots for development of a community park,” explained Richmond. “The town applied for a large Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant last year to make this park a reality. They did not receive the grant last year, but will reapply this year.”

Due to the developments distance to local parks, Richmond says the Recreation Department has a strong chance of receiving the GOCO grant.

“That area has grown so much. There’s a national mapping survey that lets communities know what areas have the highest need for parks. Buena Vista is doing great, except for the Sunset Vista area,” said Richmond. “Technically, residents should have access to a public park within a ten-minute walk. From [Sunset Vista], it’s about a 20 minute [walk].”

Moving forward, says Richmond, public relations and a community-centered focus are primary concerns for the department he leads.

“If people want help from us, we are here. We want to help other programs with their needs,” said Richmond. “We’re also going to have an opportunity for the community to give us feedback on what they want to see. What are we missing out on? What can we do better? What does the community want in the short-term and the long-term?”