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People get paid to do this?

Sideline StoriesJeff CaspersenGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kelley Cox
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Tom Barnes has had enough of living, as he put it, the “Gander Mountain lifestyle.” Camping furniture has been the centerpiece of the new Glenwood Springs Parks and Recreation director’s life since he moved here in mid-July.That’s because his furniture has yet to arrive from Whitewater, Wis., where he served for 18 years as director of parks and recreation and 14 years as city forester. The Wisconsin native is also waiting for his family. Once his wife, Sue, and daughter, Sally, get here later this week, Barnes will at last be able to get on with the settling-in process. “I almost like coming into work just because I have a real chair,” he joked. “A camping table is what I’ve been eating off of. And I’ve been sleeping on an air mattress.”His furniture shouldn’t arrive too long after his family.

Even with the distraction of relocation, Barnes eagerly attacked his new duties, and has worked to grasp the nature of recreation in the Roaring Fork Valley.”I have to emphasize that it’s a different type of recreation here,” he said. “There’s a lot of people out biking, hiking. A lot of outdoor sports vs. team sports.”Barnes developed a taste for working in the recreation field as a youngster in tiny East Troy, Wis., while in high school and during summers while in college. “My freshman and sophomore years in college, I figured this could be a real job,” he said. “People get paid to do this.”Working four years at a ski resort while attending the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater also grew his love for recreation. “Working as a bartender and working on the golf course I had a lot of fun,” Barnes said. “I had so much customer contact with people doing what they enjoy. It pretty much settled my decision as far as getting into parks and recreation.”And a career was born. Several years later, that career has him smack dab in the middle of Colorado. Moving to Glenwood satisfies what Barnes wants for a challenge: something different. Why, exactly, did he move here?”A), I enjoy the profession,” he began. “And B), I consider myself a risk-taker and I look forward to the challenge being out here presents.”By challenges he’s referring to various facility projects and program tweaking, as well as acclimating to new environs.”It’s a chance to make a step outside of our comfort zone for the right reasons,” the lifelong Midwesterner said. “One of my biggest goals is just to make sure that I can work myself and my family into the fabric of the community. I’ve been involved in every community I’ve lived in.”So what type of things can we expect from Barnes? He played somewhat coy in addressing his specific hopes. “The biggest thing is to work with the staff to evaluate existing programs and look to the future for trends and implement them,” he explained.What Barnes is excited about is that very staff he inherited. “These guys come from all over the U.S., the Midwest, Connecticut, California,” he said. “There’s a real cross-section represented on staff.”One thing’s for sure. Barnes isn’t an idle leader.”I want to have a positive impact on the community,” he said, “to promote not just parks and recreation but what the chamber and other groups are doing. I enjoy the smaller community. I didn’t want to go to a place where I’d be lost in the bureaucracy.”

Sidelines is a feature that runs every other Wednesday in the Post Independent. Have an idea for a good Sidelines subject? E-mail sports@postindependent.com or call 384-9125.


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