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New Director Hatches Plans for Bradford Rec

  • Woodsville native Mollie Hatch was hired as the Bradford recreation director in September this year. Hatch, who worked as a lifeguard and coach for Woodsville's recreation department in high school, studied graphic design and fashion merchandising at Southern New Hampshire University before returning to the Bradford area. Hatch was photographed at the Bradford Academy building in Bradford, Vt., Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Woodsville native Mollie Hatch was hired as the Bradford recreation director in September this year. Hatch, who worked as a lifeguard and coach for Woodsville's recreation department in high school, studied graphic design and fashion merchandising at Southern New Hampshire University before returning to the Bradford area. Hatch was photographed at the Bradford Academy building in Bradford, Vt., Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, December 11, 2017

Bradford, Vt. — For the last four years, Mollie Hatch had been a stay-at-home mom who ran a small graphic design business on the side. Now she has designs on enhancing the recreation curriculum in her adopted hometown.

Hatch, 27, became Bradford, Vt.’s second recreation director this fall after the part-time position — enacted during Town Meeting three years ago and previously occupied by Strafford resident Bonna Wieler — was vacant for more than a year. The position was budgeted for a salary of $12,000 for 2017, according to selectboard administrative assistant Danielle Kingsbury, and Hatch is currently working 20 hours per week during a 90-day probationary period.

Hatch, a Woodsville native and former three-sport athlete at Woodsville High, previously worked with the Haverhill Recreation Department, first as a volunteer when she was an Engineer student-athlete and later as a lifeguard and counselor-in-training.

That experience sat well with Bradford’s parks and recreation commission and selectboard, along with the fact that Hatch is a Bradford resident with two young children, 4-year-old Hayden and 1-year-old Easton. Hatch has lived with her husband, Jeremy, in Bradford since 2011.

“She’s local and well-versed in the community and what the community needs,” said Nila Newstrom-Anaya, the recreation commission’s chairman and treasurer. “One of the main objectives for the parks and recreation department is to (provide programs and services) for young children, and being a mother of two, we knew she would have a vested interest.”

One of Hatch’s first objectives is to re-introduce the town’s youth summer program, which fell dormant last year. While the age range, scheduling and other components are still being ironed out, Hatch hopes the program will feature field trips and learning activities while providing much-needed summertime child care.

“We know child care is important for a lot of working families, so we definitely want to get it up and running again,” Hatch said last week in her office in the Bradford Academy building. “We have great resources in town — Elizabeth’s Park, Low-St. John Forest, Wright’s Mountain — so a summer program is a great way to get kids familiar with those resources.”

Hatch is looking at potential sources of funding to help keep any proposed summer program affordable. “We certainly don’t want to have to turn any families away,” she said.

More immediately, Hatch is looking forward to the reopening of the town’s public skating rink, which is relocating to Elizabeth’s Park after several years at Bradford Elementary School. Savvy with social media and networking, she plans to help make people aware of open skating and other events at the rink once it’s flooded.

“It’s an all-ages facility, but we might reserve some hours for kids or times when hockey isn’t allowed, so people don’t have to worry about getting hit with pucks,” Hatch said. “It’s something we hope a lot of people will use this year. The rink and the plastic (liner) are already in place; now we just need it to get cold enough to flood.”

Hatch also hopes to eventually establish a stronger partnership with Bradford Youth Sports, a non-profit that provides soccer, basketball, baseball and softball programs. Building a relationship with the town would benefit BYS’ all-volunteer personnel, said the organization’s president, Josh Allen.

“If we could link up with the recreation department to help with the organizational side, such as scheduling, umpires, reserving fields, all those kinds of things, it would free up our volunteer coaches to focus more on teaching the game,” Allen said. “I’ve talked to Mollie, and I’m really excited to work with her. I think she has a lot of good ideas.”

Hatch also hopes to partner with neighboring Newbury, Vt., for joint swim lessons at Halls Lake in that town. Hatch was previously a lifeguard at A.P. Hill Community Pool in Woodsville.

“My 4-year-old is no expert, but she could keep her head above water, if necessary,” said Hatch. “I meet teenagers sometimes who don’t know how to swim, and I just think it’s a really important skill to have. I want to make sure children have the opportunity to learn how.”

Hatch said she won’t ignore adult recreation, whether it be outdoors events such as kayaking outings or helping to establish better team-sports opportunities. The town recently assumed ownership of the Memorial Field athletic complex behind town hall and has produced a diagram envisioning the addition of several fields and a rerouting of the access road to help create more recreational space.

“That’s still in the initial planning stages,” said Newstrom-Anaya. “There’s some red tape to get through because the area is in a flood plain.”

Hatch, who has the proposed diagram of the new complex affixed to the wall in her office, is looking forward to seeing the process through.

“Having team sports opportunities in town is important,” she said. “In Haverhill, it was a big part of what I did with the town going back to when I played (at Woodsville High) and we would go volunteer at youth sports practices. … I know some adults go to other towns to participate in softball tournaments and things like that, so it would be good to have more available to them here.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.