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No Down Time for Claremont Rec Director

Mark Brislin, the new director for the Claremont Parks and Recreation Department, sits at the pool in the Claremont Community Center in Claremont, N.H., on July 16, 2014.  
(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

Mark Brislin, the new director for the Claremont Parks and Recreation Department, sits at the pool in the Claremont Community Center in Claremont, N.H., on July 16, 2014. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

Claremont — Well, it’s been several months, and he’s still here.

The lure of working in a new, $10.3-million community center certainly got the attention of Mark Brislin when he applied for the position to replace Scott Hausler as Claremont’s Parks and Recreation director.

Then, when he landed the job at the end of 2013, he also found out that running Claremont’s vast facilities is like being a bartender — everybody leans on you with their problems. Whether it be the tree removal at Moody Park, the tearing down of the outdoor pool, the smoking ban or just how many hours a week the community center building should be open , all these issues and more landed on Brislin’s desk.

Fortunately, the 40-year-old, who gave up a position with the Essex (Vt.) Recreation Department after seven years to come to Claremont, has a patient demeanor and is dealing nicely with a myriad of concerns. He knows he can’t please all the people coming his way; he just tries and listen to all their concerns and deal with them the best you can.

When the Claremont Savings Bank Community Center opened 18 months ago, there was a surprising surge in membership — reaching about the 6,000 mark — stunning the folks who never thought those kinds of numbers would appear.

“We’ve maintained those numbers,” Brislin said. “We have a good, strong membership and people are renewing. There have been no dramatic declines.”

There has been some concern about the operational hours of the facility — open 90 hours a week — and Brislin said there has been some talk about opening the facility for a longer period on Sunday.

“We are currently open 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., but we are looking to increase those hours,” he said. “You are never going to please everybody.”

But what is going on in the building is just one of the issues confronting Brislin. Outside the building is another story. He has heard from a number of people about the removal of trees and trails over the winter at Moody Park. But he believes that in the near future the park will return to looking as it had in the past.

“There are plans now to put in new trails and repair the old ones,” Brislin said. “Since the springtime, there has been a lot of new growth. If you walk around there, you can see where things are popping up.”

The city council has also released $64,000 from the timber harvest, and Brislin said that as soon as the park closes in September, the asphalt road through the park will be ground up and reclaimed, turning it into a gravel road.

“We took a lot of phone calls on Moody Park, and I understand the peoples’ concern,” Brislin said. “A lot of work was done in a short time and it surprised some people. We are still working on removing some of the piles of brush.”

Brislin praised the work and effort of volunteers, many of whom came down from Hypertherm in Lebanon and were a big help.

“They have a program for such things for their employees,” Brislin said. “We’ve worked with them for several days. This is not a project that can be accomplished overnight. It will take some time.”

One of the still unanswered questions the City Council is dealing with is smoking in the parks. Brislin points out that smoking in the parks is being banned nationwide. “You just have to provide a healthy place for kids,” he said.

Overall, Brislin says the good has outweighed the bad. “People have been respective of the property, a place that gets a lot of use particularly in the winter or when the weather gets bad,” he said.

“That walking track gets a lot of use. This is a beautiful place. It’s a state of the art facility.”