HARVARD -- With the summer season in full swing, Matt Northrup is front and center at Bare Hill Pond. The new waterfront director took the reins after a tumultuous year on the beach last summer when the prior waterfront director resigned early in the season.
"The feedback from the parents has been awesome," said Northrup. "We had the beach set up a little earlier this year. The weather's been a great help, but also all the kids and all the instructors have been great."
"I think there's a little bit of a different attitude this year than in past years from what I've heard," said Northrup. I've received a lot of feedback from a lot of different parents who've said we've really turned it around."
New this year, the beach is routinely raked to clear debris. "It's made a big difference. We rake the front part every day and make sure all the toys are picked up and the trash is cleaned," said Northrup. "The last thing that people who live here want is to come to a dirty beach," said Northrup.
There's also new classes added to the swimming and boating lesson repertoire. There are water aerobics classes for adults, and water tots programming for children up to age 4 accompanied by a parent.
Thanks to a new check-in and check-out procedure, the town-owned boats are in heavier use. There are eight sailboats, six canoes and four kayaks. Users must be certified as capable of treading water while fully clothed before they can take out the boats.
Cari Lynn Fisher of the American Red Cross Instructor Trainer program administered the training and certification of the Harvard beach swim staff over a weeklong period. "Everyone put in between 30 and 40 hours. It was great," said Northrup.
Northrup said policies and procedures have been tightened. "We've put in some systems that hold everyone a little more accountable for getting things done."
Ice cream and ice pops are now sold from the beach house. Northrup said the idea, first proposed by Parks and Recreation commissioner B.J. Pessia, has been very well received.
"An ice cream truck used to come down, so we tried this approach instead," said Northrup. "It's been super successful."
The frozen novelty sales generate money to staff the beach house, which sells ice cream and also tracks when boats and life jackets are checked out.
"That was added at the beginning of the summer so we wouldn't have kids who haven't passed the test taking out boats," said Northrup. "We've also been able to track how many boats go out per day."
The beach is now staffed for an added two and a half hours each day. The staff arrives at 9 a.m. While the lifeguards used to leave their perch atop long legged beach chairs at 5 p.m., this year the lifeguards remain on duty until 7:30 p.m.
"It helps us maintain the beach. We have a good pick-up and cleanup at the end of the night," said Northrup. "And of course it helps keep our safety at a very high level and we keep making money from out-of-town boaters.
A native of Syracuse, N.Y., Northrup served as the assistant coach for the Bromfield swim team last winter. In the spring, Northrup served as the assistant lacrosse coach.
Previously, Northrup was the head coach at Swym Fit at Harvard Ridge. "I'd been coaching there for about a year and a half. That's when I met Julie Nocka, who is the head coach of the Bromfield swim team, and that was my connection to Bromfield."
Northrup is uncertain if he'll to return to coach the Bromfield swim team again this coming year since he's due to return to school this fall to seek his master's degree in sports leadership at Northeastern University. Northrup received his undergraduate degree in communications from Boston College, where he swam for four years and served as team captain his senior year.
Northrup's records stand -- he's third all time in relay wins and top 10 in personal wins for men at B.C. The school was part of the Big East until his senior year when it became part of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Northrup thinks he'd like to parlay his experience and education into a position promoting college athletics and/or becoming an athletic director. "I love this, so maybe I'd look for a career in facility management," said Northrup.