It was something Trish White had seen a need for in Gunnison. A nice, entertaining community center where her young kids and their friends could go play during the long summer days or after school. Through arranging her own “grassroots” group, she approached Gunnison City Council in 1982 and 1987 to hopefully see something go through.
It didn’t. At least until 2001, when the city Parks and Recreation Department arranged to sell the old Webster Hall and utilize some of the funds to build a new facility. At that time, White had become a full-time fixture of the department, serving just over 10 years as building manager.
It was a position she fell into, but quickly committed herself fully to. Next week, White will be hanging up her badge as the Assistant Facility Manager for Gunnison Parks and Recreation after 30 years of service.
“It went by really fast,” White said, recalling her decades long career.
She began her tenure after being offered a job as Webster Hall manager, which current Recreation Supervisor Dan Vollendorf called “four walls and three tables.”
“She was really supportive of getting so many projects (such as the Community Center) done,” Vollendorf said.
The lack of public pools parents could take their children to and enroll them in swimming classes was what first piqued White’s inspiration to push for a facility. She recalled, at the time, the local kids were scattered throughout the town, at the college or a hotel pool.
White pushed two other times after she became an official employee of the department to see a vote passed for a center. It finally happened in 2001.
“Well, at times I’d tell my family, ‘I’m moving, I’m out of here. They don’t want this,’” she said. “And, then we’d try again.”
The agreement to build the Community Center came together in 2001 through a three phased approach. But even in between offering a space for locals to play, White kept busy at the many other facilities that existed, or would later come to fruition.
“I loved the variety, the job was never the same day to day,” White said. “You don’t get that in a lot of jobs.”
Above checking upkeep at places like the Jorgensen Ice Rink or the Cranor Hill Ski Area, White acted as a comfort to the kids she’d find crying for whatever reason, a volunteer at one of the many department events, helping with administrative tasks in the office and so on.
“Trish is a Parks and Rec fixture,” Ginny Baylor, recreation coordinator said. “From Webster Hall to Jorgensen and Cranor warming houses, to the Recreation Center with an aquatic center and senior center and an indoor ice rink and all the employees, grants, events and community projects in between, she has put in decades of work and helped make recreation a priority in our valley.”
While White is looking to have more free time with her family and friends, spend time in her garden and travel the world, she gets misty eyed thinking of the how far the department has come, and the lasting relationships she has made. White said she is still in contact with “generations” of tourists, locals and former coworkers she’s met at the pool or a local park.
“It could be chaos,” White laughed. “Three hundred and fifty people screaming and running and playing in one area. But there was never anything that made me want to leave that job. I loved it.”
(Roberta Marquette can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or at email@example.com.)