Parks & Rec agrees to take responsibility for financial affairs of Tardif Park Association

LACONIA — With the Tardif Park Association down to a single member, the Parks and Recreation Department has assumed responsibility for its financial affairs for an indefinite period.

Kevin Dunleavy, director of Parks and Recreation, said this week that Kevin Moulton, who has been managing and maintaining the park house alone for more than four years approached the Parks and Recreation Commission in November, seeking assistance with the operations of the park. Last week, the commission agreed to manage the finances while Moulton will continue to schedule and manage the renting of the park house, located off Highland Street.

Dunleavy said that Moulton, with help from the department, will also continue seeking to enlist volunteers to assist with the management of the park. "We're still looking to shake people out of the bushes," he remarked.

The turn of events was not unexpected. The Parks and Recreation Commission has been concerned about the viability of the park associations for some time and more than a year ago directed Dunleavy to take steps to increase membership. Dunleavy said that in their heyday the park association memberships ranged between 50 and 100 and served as the social hub of close-knit neighborhoods. The park houses were originally constructed by the city and leased to the park associations, which in turn rent them to civic and social organizations as well as families and individuals for meetings and functions. The associations apply the rental income to the upkeep of the park houses.

However, Dunleavy said that as alternative forms of entertainment have multiplied, demands on two-income households have mounted and bonds among neighbors have frayed, membership has declined. Without viable associations, he said, the responsibility for maintaining and managing the park houses would fall to the city.

Memorial Park, where the park house has been leased since the 1980s, has not an active association for years. At Wyatt Park, also in the South End, the park house was closed, demolished and not rebuilt when major improvements were recently undertaken at the park. Leavitt Park and the Weirs Community Park both enjoy active associations while the association at Opechee Park has been in limbo in anticipation of rebuilding the park house, which was demolished in 2011.