By Sue Pascoe
Rustic Canyon Recreation Center welcomed a new director, Tracie Field, in September. “My goal is to get more people and more families involved,” she told Palisades News. “This is such an amazing park.”
Field has been involved with parks since she was 13 and a counselor in training at Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks. When she was 16, she was paid for working at the park. “I just never left [the field],” Field said.
After graduating from Granada Hills High School, and then Cal State Northridge, Field started working with City and has been with Rec and Parks for 25 years. She was a facilities director at the Encino Community Center before being promoted to senior director at Rustic.
Her hope is to add teen and young adult classes, and additional classes for tykes and adults. A look at the current Rustic offering is meager. There are only seven youth classes, and bridge and tai chi for adults. All-age programming includes piano and tennis.
“Some of the programs have been here 20 years and they’ve started to decline,” Field said. “They used to have waiting lists. We need to build those programs back up.”
She’d like to start yoga for teens and adults, and bring kid sports to the park. “The gym floor was just refinished and this would be a good place for little kids’ basketball and instruction clinics,” Field said. “We don’t keep score, because we don’t care. This is about teaching, looking cute and having snacks.”
The winter co-ed basketball league will start in January and is geared towards 3- to 6-year-olds. Game days are on Saturday.
“I’m trying to get the word out that we’re revamping programs,” Field said, noting that she would welcome community members to stop by and meet her, and share suggestions. “If you have an idea for a class and get four of your friends, we’ll start it.”
At the Encino Center, she had 130 kids in day camp and more than 100 classes. By comparison at Rustic, the most kids she had this fall was 32 kids, with about 20 classes. Asked if she missed the hustle and bustle of her last park, she said the pace here was different, allowing her more time to talk to people.
She touts the tennis program. “We have USTA- sponsored tennis with instructors Keith Coleman and Pedraum (Ped) Rouhafza.”
Field works closely with the Park Advisory Board, which meets on the third Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the park. In addition to the ongoing eucalyptus grove rehabilitation program, and gym, stage and tennis court refurbishment projects, there are also plans to work on the center of the courtyard. At one time the fountain was the centerpiece, now it is filled in with dirt.
“We hope to get the fountain working again,” Field said, as she showed me around the facility. “The pipes have eroded.”
We passed a children’s ceramics class, where an array of “piggy” banks were ready to be glazed. Teacher Barbara Freeman, who has been working with Rec and Parks since 1991, and at Rustic for three years, said “They [kids] have taught me how to teach.” There is a kiln and ample space for ceramics.
It takes Field about 90 minutes to get to Rustic from her home in Porter Ranch, which she shares with her husband, Rick. They have two children: Gregory, a psychology major at the University of Arizona, and Jamie, who attends Boston University.
The park, located at 601 Latimer Rd., is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 310-454-5734 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.