FRANKLIN — The Franklin Recreation Department aims to keep locals energized in the short-term, and to keep locals local in the long-term.

Nicole Tatro acts as Franklin Recreation’s community outreach coordinator. “We’re trying to bring health and wellness to make it a more attractive town, especially so young people stay,” she said.

The Franklin Recreation Department has existed less than a year, but its members have ambitious ideas, such as a potential recreation building, an idea for which Tatro said townspeople have voiced support. A recreation building would save Franklin residents from driving to St. Albans, or to Richford, to use the nearest exercise facilities.

“There is nothing in this area,” co-director Stephanie Ho said. “It’s hard to justify going to the gym for an hour just to spend an hour in the car.”

Franklin Rec members said another of the group’s ideas, creating a local skating rink, is “a little more doable” in the near future.

Franklin Recreation has only officially existed five months. Tatro, Ho, Bridget Thompson, Bridgette Favreau and Brady Giroux are its directors. Their efforts began in summer 2016.

“It was a wild idea,” Thompson said. The group’s founders were all deeply involved in local school sports. Thompson, who works at Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans, said she learned about opportunities like health care reform, Rise VT and farm-to-school initiatives through her work at the hospital. “There were all these things going on that I felt like Franklin could benefit from if we were able to better coordinate,” she said. “There are resources out there that we weren’t using.”

The group’s directors said the Franklin Town Selectboard immediately appreciated its efforts, and appointed the group an official town department in August, a month after its unofficial formation. The selectboard gave Franklin Rec’s directors another month to find additional members, and they did. Thompson said Franklin Rec now meets “two-plus hours” per week every week.

Thompson said the group is taking “baby steps” away from a school focus, toward recreational opportunities for the broader local community. The group’s winter carnival, scheduled for Feb. 11, is one such step, bringing in representatives from Rise VT and surrounding communities for activities like Pilates, Zumba, bucket drumming, cross-country skiing, a snowshoe obstacle course, street hockey and flag football. The winter carnival will also include a silent auction.

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