Time Out: July 2, 2014

By John Bernhardt
In Dana Lamsal, Arkville’s new Catskill Recreation Center may have found the perfect fit. Lamsal, the chief executive officer of the non-profit organization charged with operating the state-of-the-art indoor swimming and recreation facility, has the pedigree and life experiences to hit the ground running at the new facility.
Lamsal’s dad was a YMCA camp director at several locations across the country, so she was raised observing, living, and learning the multi-faceted responsibilities involved in a leadership role of an organization committed to community recreation and wellness opportunities. And, Lamsal’s mom grew up in the Catskills, a part of the world Lamsal has come to love.
“I’ve always gravitated back to the Catskills during each major transition of my life,” explained Lamsal when chronicling her Catskill roots.
Lamsal’s mom and dad meet just a stone’s throw down the Catskill corridor. Her mom grew up locally and graduated from Onteora Central School. In fact, Lamsal’s mom and dad met in the Onteora gymnasium.

Accidental meeting
Lamsal’s dad, who grew up in Cincinnati, OH, found himself in the Catskills as an intern at the Ashokan Center. A community event that included volleyball found Lamsal’s mom and dad on the opposite side of a volleyball net. At some point in the game, dad soared high in the air and spiked a return that nailed mom in the face. When he scurried to the other side of the net to apologize and make sure the young lady was okay, an opportunistic intern asked the surprised young lady out on a date. The rest is Lamsal family history.
Lamsal’s past meets her future in her new role operating the Arkville facility. “It’s exciting working at the ground level of this opportunity for the community to have access to a health and wellness facility,” Lamsal almost bubbled with enthusiasm. “We’re committed to running a facility where people come to have fun, to relax, to get fit, exercise, and socialize. We want to make sure people see using this wonderful facility as something that’s exciting. It shouldn’t be a chore,” Lamsal explained.
Lamsal emphasizes her vision of the Catskill Recreation Center as a forever-evolving program with her staff walking side-by-side with the community and taking one step forward at a time. Lamsal and her staff are adjusting and adapting all facets of the operation of the new facility based on day-to-day experiences.
“We value community input,” noted Lamsal. “We review every comment in our suggestion box every day to get feedback and ideas to help inform our decision making.”
The center opened on June 7 with a focus on creating relationships. Over 200 people visited on that first day. Community members were encouraged to experiment with several program options with one free event offered every day regardless of membership status that first week. A community square dance capped off the opening week’s events.

‘Give it a try’
The focus on experimenting with the many opportunities offered at the center continues. To encourage people to “give it a try,” memberships are flexible without a contract or commitment that requires that members stay on for a fixed period of time. Tours are available and encouraged.
Currently, the center staffs some 25 employees. A need for lifeguards is an ongoing challenge. Lamsal said lifeguard coordinator offer training and lifeguard certification can be obtained at the center.
“There are many benefits in becoming certified as a lifeguard including flexible hours and a competitive salary. Lifeguard prospects master the American Red Cross Training program. It’s a terrific opportunity for a college student since they leave with an employable skill they can carry with them wherever they go,” noted Lamsal.

Many ideas to try
Lamsal has no shortage of ideas she would like to bring to the center as the new recreation facility becomes a living, breathing part of the greater community. Moving forward she plans to introduce several workshop ideas including a Leadership/Goal Setting Program and Healthy Eating Classes.
“I’m hoping to have a monthly feature during the winter months, one idea that’s incredibly different, perhaps, and out of the ordinary cultural event, a ‘special something’ to maintain excitement and interest during those long hard winter months,” Lamsal explained.
And, Lamsal says plans are in the thinking stages to bring recreation and wellness to the grounds at the center. An outdoor sand volleyball court is an immediate consideration with a Little League baseball field a more long-term possibility. Proving she truly understands the wonder of our mountains, Lamsal can envision an outdoor seating area equipped with Adirondack chairs where folks can gather to enjoy each other’s company and our one-of-a-kind mountain views.