Bristol’s new rec. director eager to lace up her boots

BRISTOL — Meridith McFarland, who will take charge of the Bristol Recreation Department May 1, keeps a softball glove in her car at all times.
“I’m always up for a pickup game,” she said in a recent interview.
But 5-town players should beware: She twice competed in the national tournament of the Amateur Softball Association (now USA softball).
Beyond the diamond, McFarland brings a breadth of interest and depth of experience to the rec department.
She worked for 17 years at Sugarbush Resort, where she started as the children’s snowboard supervisor, switched to adult ski and ride in 2006, then became program coordinator for adult programs. In 2011 she added snowshoeing to those programs and in 2016 started new programs for women.
When the snow melts and the mud clears she gets out her bike.
“I remember being a kid on the Bristol streets, doing freestyle bicycling with my friends,” she said. “If only we’d had the Skatepark back then,” she added with a smile.
These days McFarland prefers a more rugged ride. She’s a certified mountain bike instructor and an official ambassador of the Vermont Mountain Bike Association.
“I love all the trails we have in the five towns,” she said.
She’s been getting to know those trails for many years.
McFarland, 43, grew up in Starksboro and attended Robinson Elementary, then Mount Abraham Union High School, before transferring to the Vermont Academy in Rockingham to play soccer, ski and compete in track and field.
“I’m really looking forward to connecting the five towns through recreation,” she said. “There’s a lot of potential here. Each town has something to bring.”
She’s also excited about programing music and the performing arts at Holley Hall, she said, noting with appreciation recent improvements to the building’s acoustics, including a sound system that was installed in March.
The Bristol rec department, which offered 110 classes, workshops, camps and events in 2017, is a widely beloved institution, as evidenced by the passion with which Bristol residents at this year’s annual town meeting debated, then rejected, proposed cuts to its budget.
“I’m a huge proponent of the Rec Department,” Adam Ginsburg said at that meeting. “My kids have profited greatly by it, my wife and I have profited greatly by it, and my parents have profited greatly by it — in all sorts of ways. I think the life and energy the Rec Department brings to this town and to this community is extremely valuable. I’d love to see it continue the way it is if not stronger.”
Thanks to the invaluable work of Northeast Addison Television (NEAT), McFarland was able to find and watch a video of the town hall discussion online.
It was inspiring, she said.
“I feel even more motivated and excited to be the new Bristol Recreation Director.”
McFarland will replace longtime director Darla Senecal, who joined the Bristol Recreation Department as an assistant to then-director Gerrie Heuts in 2000. Senecal is stepping down to become regional coordinator for the Building Bright Futures program in Addison and Rutland counties.
“Darla and Gerrie have put together something really amazing,” McFarland said. “I’m excited to lace up my boots and carry on what they’ve created.”
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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