Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Size Really Doesn't Matter in Billerica

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Size Really Doesn't Matter in Billerica

Article excerpt

Never judge a town by its size. The town of Billerica, Mass., is a diminutive 39,000, but two-thirds of the children in the town are actively involved in Billerica's Recreation Department. Its diverse and varied programming, coupled with the department's dedication to providing its townsfolk with lifelong recreation opportunities, make this small Northeastern town a Sportstown winner.

Recreation Director Joseph E. Higgins and Assistant Recreation Director Peggy Hannon-Rizza have devoted themselves to the people of Billerica with a combined 32 years of service to the recreation department. And the people of Billerica, which is just 30 miles outside of Boston, have shown their appreciation by almost fully supporting the programming. Ninety percent of the Recreation Department's budget is funded by the townspeople, with the remaining 10 percent going toward the three, full-time staff people (including Higgins and Hannon-Rizza).

"Sports really have played a critical role in our community," says Hannon-Rizza, who received the coveted Joe Trapasso Award last year.

The Recreation Department's philosophy on inclusion and lifelong sports participation is an aggressive one. It has made all of its programs integrated and inclusive. Higgins and Hannon-Rizza encourage the participation and enjoyment of lifelong sports in their community with a wide array of offerings that include (among the standard fare) lacrosse, Special Olympics, ski jumping, BMX bike track, horseback riding and street hockey.

In order to customize its programming to accommodate everyone from kindergarten to older adults, the town of Billerica Recreation Department has partnerships with non-profit organizations as well as private philanthropist groups.

As an example, the Recreation Department continued its partnership with the Billerica Police Department's Community Service Program (DARE, PAL) to offer programs to the youth of Billerica. This summer it provided ramps for its BMX riders, skateboarders and inline skaters at the Billerica Mall parking lot. It also developed a BMX racetrack at Vietnam Veterans Park. When the public schools had two early release clays, the department offered students a day filled with music, food and activities at the Lampson Recreation Complex. …

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