To the Editor:
As my 33 year career as a recreation professional has come to a close, I want to express what an honor and a privilege it has been to serve the community I was born and raised in as the recreation director for the last 30 years.
When I was hired in 1987, then Town Supervisor Frank Norton told me that he hoped I would stay for awhile because the position never had any stability. Directors came and went. I told him at the time my plan was to raise my family here and give 30 years to the job, and that is what I have done.
I am proud to be the longest serving Recreation Director that the Town and Village of Canton has ever had. As I look around our facilities, I feel great satisfaction with many of the department’s accomplishments during my tenure here.
At The Pavilion, I am the only director since the artificial ice system was installed. I created the ice user schedule from scratch that is still used today. I oversaw and aided with the building of the bleachers, locker rooms, and Riley Community Room, wrote and obtained grant funding for the Kids Corner Play area and rental skates program, and facilitated the acquisition of the electric Zamboni from PEPSI.
As a kid, I spent many days at Taylor Park and learned to swim from Coach John Oliver. The park has continued to be a summer second home to many of Canton’s kids. In recent years I assisted then-Trustee/Mayor Ashley in starting the popular kayak rental program. I also started the sand sculpture competition that is now sponsored with cash prizes by SeaComm. Taylor Park became the longtime home to the Canton Canoe Weekend under my watch as well.
I have always loved Bend in River Park, even before it was a park. When I was a kid, I played and fished down in that area. To this day, it is one of my favorite spots, a jewel of our community, used by hundreds of people twelve months of the year. It offers basketball, volleyball, softball, picnic areas, paved walkways, and a place just to sit and relax by our beautiful Grasse River.
In the early 1990’s, we replaced the ball field’s old outfield snow fence and its sharp posts with a tennis court fence donated by St. Lawrence University, made the infield surface much safer, and added the safety fence in front of the players’ benches and along the foul lines. In the park itself, we used a donation from the Canton K of C to upgrade the basketball court and a $100,000 grant from Senator Ritchie’s office to put a new roof on the picnic shelter, re-pave the walkways, and install new barbecue grills, benches, and picnic tables. Currently a brand new bathroom building is under construction.
Over the past 30 years, I have been proud to create numerous programs that are now staples in our community. In 1990, when the Youth Center closed its doors, I applied through the NYSDFY for youth service funding for my new Adventures in Learning program which is still popular 27 years later; this summer we will be working with Dr. Stoian to add a healthy living component to the program. In the mid 1990’s, Bill Porter and I created the Houli School of Basketball, one the most popular summer camps around, serving about 90-100 kids each year.
Also in the mid 90’s, I convinced the Canton Pee Wee board to start a Pee Wee football program, obtained state funding for start-up costs, and recruited Jeff Proulx to be the first commissioner. Under his supervision, the program flourished and is still going strong. My co-ed Basketball league and adult Volleyball programs have also been popular for the last 20 plus years. In more recent years, with the help of the Canton K of C for man power, I have been the local coordinator for the MLB Pitch, Hit & Run and NFL Punt, Pass & Kick competitions, as well as the K of C soccer challenge. I also wrote a grant and received funding for $1,000 worth of sports equipment we use in our various programs and parks.
Since 1990 I have been a member of the NYSRPS and have been president of the Adirondack Lake Champlain Recreation & Park Society and the Adirondack District. I am the “Founding Father” and first president of the North Country Recreation and Leisure Professionals organization, comprised of members from St. Lawrence, Franklin, Jefferson, and Lewis Counties. As most of you know, on April 3rd I was honored to receive the NYSRPS Lifetime Achievement award, which is given to an individual who has lived and worked in the state of New York and has achieved prominence for their excellence in achieving outstanding and lasting contributions to the advancement of Recreation and Parks on the local and state levels over a minimum of 20 years.
Aside from my job, I have been honored to serve the Canton community at large. I have always strived to give back to Canton Central School, serving on their athletic advisory committee and the Canton-Potsdam merger committee, and I have been a volunteer coach there for 20 years: 7 with varsity baseball, and the past 13 with the varsity and JV softball teams. I am a 4th degree member of the Canton Knights of Columbus where I will proudly continue my service to our community.
I want to thank all those I have worked with over the years, including mayors, supervisors, boards, recreation employees, and countless volunteers who have given freely of their time. The Canton community is one of a kind, and everything our department has accomplished has been a result of the commitment of a wide variety of committed organizations and individuals. I especially thank Larry Olmstead, my confidant and right hand man, who has helped make my time with the department both productive and rewarding. Wherever I have made a difference to Canton Recreation, he has been beside me.
Last but not least I want to thank my wife Tina and daughters Brittanie and Brianna. With their love and support they allowed the demands of my job to dictate the schedule of their lives for so many years.
It is a bittersweet moment for me as I hand the Canton Recreation Department over to a new director and begin a new chapter in my life. I hope to be eagerly watching from close by to see what the next 30 years will bring for the department and for this community that I love.
John S. Taillon
Canton Recreation Director, 1987-2017