Thorpe set to lead recreation to new heights

The Prince Rupert Department of Recreation and Community Services has found their new director.

After over a month of searching, and taking applicants from across Canada and parts of the United States, the Prince Rupert Department of Recreation and Community Services has found their new director.

Willa Thorpe arrived on the scene last week to lead a revamped recreation department that’s been overhauled during the past few months with the addition of a recreation commission and insight from Brent Meunier, Prince Rupert’s recreation consultant who will be with the department until the end of September.

“I think that Rupert’s got everything a big city has but more with a sense of community,” said Thorpe, who most recently served as executive director of the Vancouver Curling Club and facility manager at Smithers’ Bulkley Valley Regional Pool and Recreation Centre.

Thorpe’s extensive history with a variety of facilities and user groups made her the prime candidate for Meunier and the city, who were looking for someone to manage many of the different facilities Prince Rupert offers and to improve the services and programs the city already boasts for residents.

“I think that my participatory style [helped the city identify me as a target] so I’m really looking to have our recreation department and facilities working like a team so that any successes we have, we’re going to all have together,” said Thorpe.

“We’ve got a lot of strong people that work in our department and I think really keying in on everyone’s experience and knowledge, skills and abilities [will be necessary].”

The City of Prince Rupert operates the Jim Ciccone Civic and Earl Mah Aquatic Centres along with three baseball diamonds beside the civic centre, one diamond at Roosevelt Park Community School, Patullo Field and two public tennis courts.

Maintaining parks and fields, however, doesn’t fall under the recreation department’s jurisdiction, but through the Department of Engineering and Public Works.

Thorpe will be tasked with making necessary changes under tight budgetary constraints to improve the department.

“I think that no matter how good change is and how positive it is, there’s always going to be challenges for folks. I think that everyone bearing with the change and getting everyone on board and seeing the future to be bright here in Rupert is important … we’ll all be much stronger when we get to the other side so it’s that patience that’s going to be key for everyone,” she said.

Thorpe will meet with the existing recreation commission regularly to provide a long-term vision for the department.