HARVARD -- Three candidates are vying for two spots on the Parks and Recreation Commission, tasked with overseeing recreation and maintaining areas such as the town beach, and the common.
Anne McWaters, who already sits on the commission, said she is running because she feels a responsibility to give back to the town she grew up in.
Recreation is important to her, she said.
"Throughout my life I've worked in sports and in athletics, and I just feel like it's so important for healthy living," she said. "A chance to be able to do that, and volunteer to do it, seems like a natural fit."
McWaters said the commission has been working to improve McCurdy track, and instituted a successful moms-and-tots swimming class at the pond.
In the past, children under age 4 could not use the pond until after noon, she said. The commission changed that rule to make the pond accessible to everybody, allowing lessons for children under four while still allowing free swim for others.
"Older people who want to do lap swimming, they can do that during lessons," she said. "We want to allow for all those different things to happen at the same time. We've made it safe for that to happen."
McWaters identified the scarcity of fields as a challenge for the commission, citing the many different groups that need fields for activities.
McWaters said she would also like to make the pond a more populated place in the summer and offer programs for different age groups.
"Whatever it is, I feel like we need to broaden our horizon and not just keep doing what we've always done," she said. "Obviously, what we've done is great. I'd like to continue it and make it better, but also add to it."
The commission faced a controversial decision this year when it voted 3-2 to reduce the number of rowers for the Bare Hill Rowing Association from 100 to 80.
The decision stemmed from concern of disorder and safety issues at the pond, but resulted in Chair John Lee's resignation.
McWaters said she voted for the reduction after witnessing first-hand the situation when she took her two children down to the pond.
"My concern was safety issues, that it was getting too big and out of hand," she said, adding that her 5- and 2-year-olds were dodging in and out of high school students carrying big boats.
She said she originally proposed having more adult supervision, but that option never played out. The decision does not mean BHR has to cut people immediately, but rather whittle the team down to 80 over the next few seasons, she said. "We didn't want them to have to cut anybody that they currently had because they felt that that was not fair."
Now, the commission is no longer dealing with the rowing association, as the Board of Selectmen has taken over that role, she said.
McWaters said she hates that the decision is so controversial.
"It's been such a bummer, really, that it's taken so much of our time and effort, because there are so many other things that we need to focus on," she said.
Steve Victorson, owner of Swymfit in Boxborough, describes himself as a pro-recreation person whose career has been health and fitness. He previously served as a coach for the U.S. Ski Team and opened Swymfit in 2004.
"When you run your own business, you realize that there's a business side and then there's the implementation side," he said. "And everything has to work, everything has to fit. And you have to be able to organize your space so that everyone can be happy."
Victorson said the committee will need to find a way to make the best use out of the town's resources.
"We're a small town with limited resources and we want to make it the best possible experience for our children to grow up in," he said.
His goal, he said, would be to make sure that the whole system works, and that all the facilities are available and taken care of, ensuring that the town has all of its recreational needs.
Victorson has multiple degrees in the health and fitness field, graduating with a doctorate in human movement from Boston University.
"I believe in my educational background and my career that I'm a highly qualified candidate to be talking about recreation and activities and sports and helping promote health and fitness," he said.
On the Bare Hill Rowing Association issue, Victorson only said he is supportive of youth activities, from rowing to sailing to swimming.
"If elected to this office, one of the first items I would address is the rowing program," he said. "It is successful and very beneficial to our kids and should be supported."
Wyona Lynch-McWhite, executive director of Fruitlands Museum, is the third candidate in the race. She said she is running because she heard there was a need for some assistance.
"It seemed to me that they share a lot of the interests I share in my day job," she said. "We're both responsible in our different ways for some of the biggest areas of green space, and I thought that would be a very interesting thing to do."
Both the commission and Fruitlands share some of the same job elements, including active land management and maintaining trails, she said. The museum also works with schools to allow them to use the grounds for cross-country meets.
In Harvard for one and a half years, Lynch-McWhite has served on other local boards, including an economic development task force in Brockton and the Roanoke Arts Commission in Virginia.
Lynch-McWhite said she will bring 110 percent effort to the work.
"I take the work very seriously, but I'm not being over-serious about myself," she said. "I have a great sense of humor and I'd like to be able to make a positive difference."
Lynch-McWhite said she is not familiar enough with the rowing issue to comment on it.
The two open positions carry three-year terms. Current member Steven Gordon is the only candidate for one open position with a one-year term.
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