2023 MRPA Annual Conference





56th Annual MRPA Conference

March 19-21, 2023


Sunday, March 19

2:00 pm – 4:00 pm – MyRec.com User Group Session: Software That Simplifies Your Recreation Management
This session is geared towards current MyRec.com users and will cover areas from all modules of the software highlighting our newest features and updates over the past year! We will give you tips and tricks to make your life easier, and there will be a question/answer period for all involved. Let’s share how you simplify your recreation management!

A recreational professional need to be able to provide accurate and easy registration for their public and be able to conduct and report on those statistics. Some learning outcomes that attendees will take away 1) How to manage registrations, reservations, and more via their software system 2) How to use recreation software to accurately report on income, sales, expenses and more, and 3) Identify how recreation management software helps their department via the financial tools included. This will lead them to concentrate more on providing quality programs for their constituents, rather than spending time in the office.
Presenters: Colin Drury Chief Commercial Officer and Marcy Parmenter, Director of Client Services at MyRec.com

2:00 pm – 4:00 pm –The “Fix-It” Ticket
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a one way ticket that leads to better outcomes for both kids and staff? Behavioral incidents can be varied, complex and complicated, but strategies don’t have to be.

In this session, Spark Trainers will be doing the role playing so you don’t have to!  Come join this fun, informative and sometimes silly workshop as we explore different ways to address common behavioral challenges. The objectives for this workshop will include group discussions, voting on best approaches for your unique environments and take-aways that can be used with your teams. Be prepared to talk, collaborate, laugh and learn as we share simple techniques that can lead to big outcomes when challenging behaviors occur.

KEY TAKEAWAYS: (1) How you can help new and experienced staff use simple approaches that work. (2) How to build behavioral momentum that has staying power! AND (3) How to build staff confidence and keep it.
Presenters:  Alexander Whitney, Gregin Doxesee, Bobbi Hyson, Spark Training Solutions

4:00 pm – 5:00 pm – New Director Conversations
During COVID MRPA created a mastermind group of new directors.  Participants in this group became directors in 2020,21 & 22.  The group has been meeting on ZOOM to discuss, ask questions, get advice, and share. A mastermind is a small group of dedicated peers who share and support each other through the challenges of leadership. It provides a mutually beneficial source of inspiration, information, and collaboration for all of the members. THIS HOUR IS OPEN TO ANYONE WHO WOULD LIKE TO JOIN US.
Facilitators:  Deb Smith, MRPA Executive Director and MRPA board members

5:30 pm – 7:30 pm- Sunday Night Social: Trivia Night! Hosted by Play207!
Join a team, or bring your own! – event includes pizza and cash bar
Show up at 5:30 to grab some pizza and join a team. Trivia starts at 6:00!

This is not your average trivia challenge! Teams will buzz in with their answers in multiple rounds of challenges. Channel your useless knowledge for a chance to win prizes! Door prizes will be drawn at the end of the night.
Sponsor: Funtown/Splashtown USA

Monday, March 20

8:00 am  – 9:00 am – Registration in the Samoset Lobby

7:30 am  – 9:00 am – Breakfast

9:00 am – 10:15 am – SESSION 1        Addressing Sensory Overload in Summer Programming
The summer is a high energy, action packed, and often overwhelming time of year for many children. While camps come with a lot of excitement, this excitement also means crowded spaces, loud noises, high heat, novel expectations, (not to mention some funny smells)… all of which creates a space primed to overstimulate small bodies. During this session we will explore children’s physiological response to sensory overload, detailing how these body and brain changes impact behavior, and how our teams can enter summer best prepared to help. Key take-aways from this session include:  how children respond physiologically to sensory overload, how over stimulation relates to behavior, and how staff can support children who are overwhelmed, both proactively and in the moment.
Presenters:  Alexander Whitney, Bobbi Hyson, Spark Training Solutions

9:00 am – 10:15 am – SESSION 2        What We Forgot To Tell You About Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
As part of the ongoing Racial Reckoning in America many local communities have jumped into wanting more efforts surrounding DEI, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Yet, in the race to try and do the right thing by incorporating such a large cultural shift, there may have been things overlooked, missed, or that got lost in understanding along the way. This now may be causing issues in your town, municipality, or simply your sphere of influence. This session looks to provide the pieces of what you may not know or have misunderstood regarding DEI, to help you better in working through these massive issues. Your town may be already engaged in DEI work, but are you finding hiccups along the way? We hope to provide answers. Maybe you feel like DEI isn’t for your group; learn how it can still benefit you and your communities even though you have gone this long without addressing it.
Presenter:  Dustin Ward, President and Founder of It Is Time, LLC

9:00 am – 10:15 am – SESSION 3       Director’s and Supervisors Roundtable
This roundtable session will feature peer discussions and sharing about timely issues.  It is  designed for agency leaders who want to meet informally with other professionals to share ideas and challenges, network, and learn together in a supportive environment.   Conversation will be led by Kristine Stratton CEO and President of NRPA, who is interested in hearing about your experiences and can field some questions for NRPA. Facilitator:  Kristine Stratton, President and CEO of  NRPA

10:15 am – 10:45 am –  Break With the Exhibitors
Please stop by the exhibit hall to visit, talk to, and thank the commercial members who are supporting MRPA

10:45 am – 11:45 am – KEYNOTE – SESSION 4 –  Leveraging the Impact of Parks and Recreation
Join us and our Keynote speaker, Kristine Stratton, President and CEO of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), as she discusses the fundamental role that parks and recreation plays in promoting overall health and wellness, driving economic opportunity and providing the critical infrastructure that makes our communities more environmentally resilient. Learn more about the research behind why parks and recreation truly is essential to thriving communities and how telling your community’s park and recreation stories can help to elevate the field and create greater awareness and investment in your important work.

11:45 am – 12:15 pm – Break With the Exhibitors

12:15 pm – 1:15 pm – LUNCH and MRPA Business Meeting

1:30 pm – 2:30 pm – SESSION 5 – Trips, Tips, and Tricks for Successful Age Friendly Programs and Activities
In this panel presentation, colleagues from Southern Maine and Seacoast New Hampshire will share their knowledge and experiences to provide you with much of the information that you will need for the successful facilitation of older adult programs in your community. Whether you’ve been age-friendly programming for a while and you’re looking for an exciting new trip idea, or you are new to this kind of program offerings and you want to learn how best to get started, there will be something for everyone to learn and take away from this session. There will be time for Q&A and idea sharing.
Presenters:  Art Jacobs, Program Coordinator, Center for Active Living in York,  Nicole Finitsis, Senior Service Supervisor, City of Portsmouth, NH. & Sarah Ward, Rochester, NH Recreation and Parks

1:30 pm – 2:30 pm  – SESSION 6 – Targeted Youth Sports Programs
Ryan French, who currently works at Standish Parks & Recreation, will highlight the work he was involved in between 2006-11 when he worked for Guernsey Sports Commission as a Community Sports Development Officer. This role focused on trying new ways to increase participation in sport/physical activity at the grass roots level, and to increase pathways for individuals to continue to participate. He used targeted programs to reach individuals most in need of support to gain a positive sport/physical activity experience.

This session will look at some of the programs that Ryan was involved with in Guernsey and will help us think about how Parks & Recreation Departments in Maine could implement targeted youth sports/physical activity programs for the community to benefit from. The session will include using the group as a resource to overcome each other’s challenges by using large/small group discussions. Our group will then help each other to think about the first steps you can take when you return to the office after the conference.
Presenter:  Ryan French, Assistant Director Standish Parks and Recreation

1:30 pm – 2:30 pm – SESSION 7        Advocacy 101: Don’t Let Your Department Get Lost in the Municipal Hustle
“Get a seat at the table” is a phrase we are all familiar with. But how do you get there? Join Karyn and Nicole in a conversation about department advocacy, the importance of self-promotion, and why you should “get comfortable with being uncomfortable” to reach your department goals.
Presenters:  Nicole Welch, Director of Lewiston Recreation and Karyn MacNeill, Director of Yarmouth Parks, Recreation, and Community Services

2:45 pm – 4:00 pm – SESSION 8        Fighting Defensiveness in Equity Conversations
Over the last decade, there’s been a noticeable rise in organizations prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Many times, these initiatives include internal staff training on topics such as implicit bias, healthy communication, and building relationships across diverse experiences. However, these workshops and conversations require a high degree of emotional engagement, which inevitably can produce resistance and opposition amongst staff. The ability to anticipate, recognize, and respond effectively to the opposition will be critical to long-term success. This workshop will help you understand the real reasons why diversity initiatives provoke opposition, and how effectively responding will help lead employees through a sustainable, cultural transformation.
Presenter: Autumn Saxton-Ross, VP for Education & Chief Equity Officer at the National Recreation and Parks Association

2:45 pm – 4:00 pm – SESSION 9        Keep Doing What You’re Doing
Kyle Poissonnier, the owner, maker and artist behind Catalyst for Change Wear (CFC) will be sharing with MRPA members the inspirational story behind his Maine-based clothing brand and why passion and mission in the work you do everyday matters.  CFC is made famous for promoting Maine, outdoor recreation, and mental health, with slogans like “Just a Kid from Maine”, “Keep Going”, “Warrior”, and “Mental Health Matters”, just to name a few.

“Keep Doing What You are Doing!” is a saying Kyle has taken with him in life from his grandfather, and later, during a most difficult time, found it’s true meaning from a father figure who introduced him to the beautiful simplicity of life in the outdoors, a space so many of us in Parks and Recreation can relate to for ourselves and our programs. Following this motto and becoming more in touch with mental health allows for better work and better inspiration of others. When someone does something with all their heart, they allow others to dream, to be inspired, to be loved. While Kyle’s profession happens to be a clothing company, it is completely applicable to every job, especially for those of us in MRPA.  Attendees of this session will leave with take aways about supporting mental health in ourselves and our patrons, overcoming burn-out and imposter syndrome, and how to infuse your passion for your work in your programs and services.
Presenter:  Kyle Poissonnier, Owner and Founder of Catalyst for Change Wear

2:45 pm – 4:00 pm – SESSION 10        Partner With Let’s Go! to Support Youth and Staff Wellness
Whether you are brand new to partnering with Let’s Go! or have worked with us in the past, this session will provide you with an update on what we have to offer that will enhance your work to support the health of youth and staff. Increase your understanding of how Let’s Go! can support you in this work, discover resources to share with families about healthy eating and physical activity and hear about training opportunities to support your work in creating healthy environments.
Presenter: Ashley Edmondson, Program Manager for the Let’s Go! Community Team

4:15 pm – 5:00 pm – Walking Works
Enjoy the great outdoors at the Walking Works social. The group will venture out to the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse along the granite walkway which stretches out for just under a mile. Walk at your own pace while enjoying the conversation with your fellow professionals and take in the beautiful scenery. Be prepared with sturdy shoes and an extra layer of clothing.
Facilitator: Ryan French, Assistant Director Standish Parks and Recreation

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm – Exhibitor Social

6:00 pm – 7:30 pm – MRPA Awards Banquet

8:00 pm – 10:00 pm – Monday Night Social

Tuesday, March 21

7:30 am – 9:00 am – Breakfast

9:00 am – 10:00 am – SESSION 11        Nordic Walking
Learn about the  brief history of Nordic Walking and it’s benefits as an exercise. You’ll hear a local senior’s story about how it impacted her life, and about how she spread the activity to older adults in Gray, Maine. The instructor will explain how their recreation department implemented the program and what they learned. Session attendees will get to try Nordic Walking with coaching and instruction.
Presenters:  Anthony Dahms, Director of Gray Parks and Recreation and Mary Sweeney Underwood

9:00 am – 10:00 am – SESSION 12          Programs That Stick
We all have our briefcase of successful programs, and here is your chance to share your brilliant ideas! Session participants will have 20 minutes to walk around the room, writing their favorite entertainers, youth and senior enrichment programs, family trips, and more, on post its, and stick them into their categories. We will then re-group and hear from our colleagues about their successes! Find out what other communities are offering, and bring some new ideas back to your department!
Facilitator:  Meghan Mazzella, Town of Orono Parks and Recreation Manager


9:00 am – 10:00 am – SESSION 13          The 3 “Knows” of Budget Preparation and Presentation
Municipal budgeting is not a “season,” it’s a year-round process. It can be emotional at times and frankly can be flat-out challenging. During this session I’ll share some real-life examples of my budgeting experiences, both positive and negative. I’ll share what I’ve learned, the mistakes I’ve made, and share some strategies to help you create the best possible budget experience for yourself and staff.
Know Your Stuff * Know Your Audience * Know What’s Important
Todd Souza, Director of Community Services, Town of Scarborough

10:10 am – 11:10 am – SESSION 14          Accessible and Inclusive Recreation
To promote health and quality of life of the whole community, park and recreation professionals must ensure all people can access parks and recreation. However, many people cannot recreate in outdoor environments due to inaccessibility and the historic exclusion of people with disabilities in these spaces. Therefore, to fulfill their mission of improving the quality of life of their communities, parks and recreation professionals must emphasize accessible and inclusive recreational opportunities for older adults and individuals with disabilities— individuals who are already vulnerable to poorer health and quality of life disparities.

This session will empower park and recreation professionals to improve the accessibility of their own parks and inclusivity of their programming as well as to advocate for funding and support for these changes to internal and external stakeholders. To do this, participants will gain a foundational understanding of accessibility and inclusion and its application to parks. Participants will then be introduced to established accessibility guidelines and best practices in outdoor developed areas and recreational activities with examples. Finally, participants will become familiar with additional available resources to support this work.
Presenter:  Katie Palano, Physical Therapist and Advocate for Inclusive and Accessible Recreation

10:10 am – 11:10 am – SESSION 15       Land & Water Conservation Fund: What is LWCF and How Do I Successfully Apply?
This session will cover all the basic information about LWCF, including: a brief history of the fund, what to consider before applying, a review of the grant application process and helpful tips to make an application competitive, as well as an important discussion on LWCF lifetime stewardship obligations that every applicant should know before becoming a project sponsor.
Presenter:  Mathew Henion, Outdoor Recreation Grants Specialist for the Bureau of Parks & Lands in the Grants and Community Recreation Program

10:10 am – 11:10 am – SESSION 16        The Power of Play for Middle Schoolers (meet in the lobby for this outside session)
Playing outside is important for youth development, it promotes curiosity, creativity and critical thinking. Teens to Trails builds community through collaboration and shared outdoor play; assisting Maine’s Recreation Departments, middle and high schools in starting outdoor programs that are inclusive and non-competitive, breaking down social barriers and building lifelong habits of wellness. This talk will include several presenters sharing the health benefits and examples of outdoor play, as well as a chance to play a few games ourselves! Topics covered will include:  why unstructured outdoor play is so important for youth development, stories from Maine classrooms on how performance, behavior and child health is positively influenced by outside playtime,  specific games and activities that recreation professionals can offer to promote non competitive play, an overview of Outdoor Explorers, a program that Teens to Trails offers for Recreation Departments and suggestions for building more outdoor time into the lives of Maine youth.
Presenters:  Alicia Heyburn, Executive Director Teens To Trails & Sam Annable, PE and Outdoor Recreation Professional