New recreation and culture manager brings big-city experience to Fort Frances

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

With 20 years experience across a variety of areas of recreation, Nathan Young comes to Fort Frances with hopes of using his previous experiences to energize the town’s recreation and culture sector.

Young comes to Fort Frances from Sylvan Lake in central Alberta where he was most recently an event co-ordinator for the town. Before that, he ran a dance studio.

“I was running a dance studio north of Edmonton, unfortunately it wasn’t able to make it through (the pandemic) with the nature of the customers that I was working with,” he said. “Being in a small town, and on farms that didn’t have a lot of resources to be able to continue with online classes, we saw a lot of drop off in students and that’s when I moved to Sylvan Lake.”

Before the dance studio, Young worked with the City of Edmonton’s Community Services Department in recreation programs.

“We did low-cost and free recreation programs, drop-in programs at playgrounds as well as registered day camp programs for low-cost families,” Young said. “Part of that portfolio was working with services so I would work with Boys and Girls Clubs, REACH Edmonton, different organizations and groups to do cross training, equipment supply. I would teach them how to recruit volunteers, onboard volunteers, and get them running with their own programs.”

The larger city of Edmonton is divided into 63 smaller community leagues.

“Everything was set up with different community leagues within the city,” Young said. “So (it was) empowering them to activate their own neighborhoods in their own communities with their own programming.”

Young says he hopes the lessons learned over his career can translate well to Fort Frances.

New Recreation and Culture manager has worked in large centres and rural communities. – Allan Bradbury photo

“Being in recreation for the past 20 years, I saw this as an opportunity to take all my previous years of experience and put it together to activate and bring recreation activities to the community,” Young said. “I felt the job description really played into what my experience has brought to the table but also a challenge.”

He hopes that his experience in working with a lot of different programs and people can be an asset.

“We would do 150 programs in 70 different locations over eight weeks, with a staff of 200,” Young said of his work in Edmonton. “So I’ll be taking a lot of the lessons of being able to work with a lot of different people in a lot of different areas. Yes, I may be in a small town now. But there’s lots of lessons from that large capacity that we can take some new ideas that maybe Fort Frances has not seen before, and try to implement them here.”

Young says his first couple of weeks have been spent getting summer programming ready, as well hiring and preparing leaders for those programs.

“Summer programs start July 4 and now that that piece is done I can focus on the fall,” Young said. “Getting fitness programs and our swim lessons back that’s my big focus. We do have a young team of lifeguards and they do have the certifications required for the programming, but now it’s putting it in the schedule.”

Young was quick to add that amidst a national shortage of lifeguards, the town does still need lifeguards. But if swimming programs don’t get back up and running, there will also be no future pipeline for lifeguards either.

“Swim lessons are important because they lead into our life-saving courses, which lead to lifeguards which lead into awesome jobs for highschoolers and young adults.”

Young also hopes to help community members get involved on the recreation side of things.

“I’ve met a lot of people,” Young said. “I don’t remember all of their names necessarily, but we have a very good community here that wants to be engaged and wants opportunities to get involved on the volunteer side, activating programs but also participating in programs.”

Young also added that he knows recreation in Fort Frances is not just the Memorial Sports Complex. He’ll be working with the museum and library as well as in other areas besides sports to help the community get involved in recreation.

When he’s not working, Young has lots of different hobbies.

“I like being outdoors, walking, biking, swimming,” He said. “I ran a dance studio, so anytime that I can get into a class or maybe offer some classes, that’s what I like to do in my downtime, and hang out with my cat, Steven.”