Brian LaClair is a friendly, approachable member on the Fairfax Parks & Recreation Department’s team. He describes their goal as “creating and maintaining spaces, programs, and events that build a happier, healthier community.” How do they honor this mission? RiseVT caught up with LaClair to discuss his work and his department’s accomplishments as a RiseVT Amplify grant awardee:
What is his role and focus as Fairfax Parks & Rec Director?
The department was officially founded in 2004 and has experienced alternating times of both enormous growth and status quo operations. Recently, they have been busy building the community! LaClair joined the department in 2019 after previous work as director of The Hub, and experience working alongside their local Bristol Parks & Recreation Department. He describes his charge since joining the team in Fairfax as simply “to invigorate the community to be excited about all the opportunities that we do have so that we can continue building more.”
What are a few of the local projects?
LaClair and his team oversee a major trail project: the 100 Acre Woods. They have extensively worked with RiseVT in trail expansion and enhancement. They operate the historical Baptist Building, which is still undergoing renovations to match the vision of being a multi-generational community center. They have a beautiful community park and have expanded their role of groundskeepers to providing programs and opportunities for that space. In essence, “We wear a lot of hats in the Parks & Rec department!”
How have RiseVT Amplify grants supported Fairfax Parks & Rec projects?
Though LaClair had previous experience partnering with RiseVT in Addison County, his first experience writing a grant for Fairfax was for the Amplify grant in 2019. The focus? The 100 Acre Woods in northern Fairfax. They began with social media promotions to raise awareness of the trails, and continued on to digitally map them to an interactive map on their website. RiseVT’s generosity led them to add a message board trailhead to the previously unmarked lot, which made maps and trail information easily accessible to visitors.
They were also awarded two Amplify grants in 2020. The most impactful was the massive expansion of a Fairfax resident’s community farmer’s market, which persevered despite the COVID-19 pandemic. They worked to make the farmer’s market not just a shopping experience, but an event. With the addition of prepared foods and a concert series, it became known to locals as Fairfax Fridays. RiseVT’s support specifically supported the artists in the concert series and provided funding to make alternate payment methods (including EBT) accessible to all guests. Though the COVID-19 regulations meant the concerts were completely virtual initially, some patrons were able to safely visit with their pods in a socially-distant manner during the summer.
“It was a huge hit and we would not have been able to do it without RiseVT’s support. It’s something we are absolutely bringing back this next year,” LaClair said.
The other 2020 Amplify grant was used for way-finding trail signage for the 100 Acre Woods. These signs were made by Perma-Line, the same company that makes many of our road signs, which ensured the trails would have long-lasting and highly visible prismatic signs. In addition, they were able to purchase more trail tools. These will be integral in accommodating volunteers to improve and expand Fairfax trail networks.
Do you have hopes for the future or exciting projects on the horizon?
In a word and a laugh from LaClair, “Lots.” One of the exciting next projects involves expanding upon summer camp offerings. Their goal is to offer in-house summer camps that will be educational, engaging, and more financially accessible to Fairfax families. They will aim to hire locally and eventually expand both the traditional day camps as well as half-day camps.
What else would you like to share with the community?
“Our department tries to be as transparent as possible to get people excited about what we’re doing. If community members didn’t believe in the work that we’re doing, it would be a huge challenge to accomplish anything awesome and move ourselves forward. It’s been a great experience being able to work with so many community members as volunteers and so many people that really care about Fairfax to create incredible opportunities for everybody.”