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Former Mascoma Star Returns the Favor

  • Kati Lary Jopek has been named the new Mascoma area recreation director. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Kati Lary Jopek has been named the new Mascoma area recreation director. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kati Lary Jopek, the new Mascoma area recreation director, works on the department’s new logo with Nathan Guarino, a student at the Hartford Area Career and Technology Center. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Kati Lary Jopek, the new Mascoma area recreation director, works on the department’s new logo with Nathan Guarino, a student at the Hartford Area Career and Technology Center. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kati Lary Jopek has been named the new Mascoma area recreation director. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Kati Lary Jopek, the new Mascoma area recreation director, works on the department’s new logo with Nathan Guarino, a student at the Hartford Area Career and Technology Center. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

Canaan — After a four-year field hockey career at Providence College and another four as a U.S. Army officer in the Pacific Northwest, former Mascoma Valley Regional High multi-sport star Kati Lary Jopek returned to the area three years ago with a hankering to give back. Thanks to Upper Valley Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) and a collaboration between the towns of Enfield and Canaan, she now has the chance to truly engage in those efforts.

Jopek, 28, was recently hired as the Mascoma Valley Regional Parks & Recreation Coordinator, a 20-hour-per-week position made possible through municipal funding and HEAL, a Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-based nonprofit promoting physical activity and nutrition throughout the Upper Valley.

A 2002 Mascoma graduate, Jopek excelled at field hockey, basketball and softball before she played for the Friars, followed by a stint near Tacoma, Wash., while on active military duty.

Since returning to Canaan as a reserve officer in 2010, she has helped run youth field hockey camps and has been a volunteer assistant for the Indian River School field hockey team — all the while hoping to find ways to do more.

“It just never really felt like enough, like I wasn’t reaching enough of the population,” said Jopek, who scored 1,000 career points for the Royals’ girls basketball team and led the Royals to a NHIAA Class M state title as a senior. “I think living in Providence during college and then (near Seattle) when I was in the military kind of showed me that there’s always something going on that can inspire you, whether it’s sports, a concert, an art exhibit.

“The fact is, all of that is happening in our backyard, but sometimes people don’t know where to find it.”

To help with that, one of Jopek’s first major projects with her new post was to help design and produce the debut edition of Play Mascoma Valley, a comprehensive periodical offering full-color descriptions and photos of recreation, sports and leisure opportunities in Enfield and Canaan.

The 11-page booklet is broken down into six categories — youth activities, adult recreation, outdoor adventures, arts and culture, swimming and beach news, and community events. It’s still being processed, but will be distributed to schools and available at both town offices shortly, Jopek said. An online version is also available on the Canaan website, and will soon be posted to Enfield’s site.

“I didn’t get hired until April, so it’s a little late getting out,” said Jopek, who’s working closely with the all-volunteer Canaan Recreation Commission and Enfield recreation director Jeanine King. “We hope people will use it to find all kinds of things to do.”

A revamped partnership between the Enfield and Canaan recreation departments this summer will include shared use of lifeguards and swimming instructors at the towns’ respective public beaches — Canaan Street Lake and Enfield Town Beach on Mascoma Lake. One of Jopek’s jobs is to facilitate those agreements among town officials and to help recruit additional waterfront staff.

She’s also in charge of recruiting program leaders for special events, including the first “4 on the 4th” this Independence Day, a four-mile road race through Canaan to benefit the Masons of Social Summit Lodge No. 50. A 1.4-mile walk and a kids fun run around Canaan Elementary School will also be part of the festivities.

Other activities in the region this summer include a guest scholar in late July to discuss Canaan’s 19th-century abolitionist movement, moonrise hikes on Mount Cardigan with the Mascoma Outing Club and the second annual “MascomaMan” triathlon at Enfield’s Shaker Village.

Jopek is also looking forward to help promote and facilitate sailing on Mascoma Lake, a June 30 field trip to a New Hampshire Fisher Cats game and, of course, her youth field hockey camps with Canaan Recreation chairwoman Bev Chapman in August.

While Enfield and Canaan already have plenty to offer, Jopek will constantly be looking for enhancements.

“I’m definitely going to want to expand the overall number of programs and make the options more diverse for everyone who lives in the region, whether it’s bringing in local bands for concerts or having more arts programs,” Jopek said. “Youth athletics and camps are always going to be important, but it will be nice to see more things for adults, too.”

Upper Valley HEAL representative Cindy Heath hopes the new coordinator position will help recreation programs run much more smoothly in both towns.

“We noticed that there were a lot of recreation efforts being put on, but like in any small community, the volunteers were getting tapped out pretty quickly, time-wise,” Heath said. “This idea emerged, and we think it will be a very positive way to bring those towns together and create more programs.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.