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Geoff Beyer: Leaving a Legacy

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Geoff Beyer
Montpelier Parks and Trees Director Geoff Beyer in his natural habitat.
Geoff Beyer
Montpelier Parks and Trees Director Geoff Beyer in his natural habitat.

Geoff Beyer is the first to point out that many in the Montpelier community have contributed to the transformation of the city’s parks and the greater utilization of those resources by the public during the past four decades. But it is fair to say that, as director of parks and tree warden, Beyer has been in the wheelhouse—and occasionally on the snow machine—of getting it done.

For Beyer, getting it done has had a specifically educational twist. Although botany and forestry have played a large role in his career, his training and interest in education have underscored much of what he brought to the parks and the community. After graduating from Goddard College with a degree in natural sciences and education, Beyer obtained a master’s degree in counseling at UVM.

Beyer’s relationship with Montpelier stretches back to 1981, when Beyer took a summer job at Hubbard Park while working as a school counselor, first at Waterbury Elementary, then in Williston. At that time, operation of the park was entirely seasonal, opening in early summer and closing after Labor Day. The job was one of basic maintenance—facility repairs, trash removal, and sweeping up vast quantities of broken glass after drinking parties at the tower.

After the city created the position of director of parks and tree warden, Beyer’s life centered in Hubbard Park, quite literally. He lived and raised a family in the caretaker’s residence situated about dead center in the park.

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With the encouragement and support of the many Montpelier residents who have served on the Parks Commission, or volunteered through the Friends of the Parks, Beyer has managed the creation and construction of new facilities and infrastructure. To that end, he has collaborated with teachers, coaches, international work crews, city officials, and yes, dog owners.

Among the challenges of the multi-use facilities and trails throughout the parks, accommodating the potentially conflicting activities of interested users is the most persistent. But supported by the proactive involvement of dog owners, for instance, guidelines have been established about appropriate behavior for canines and their owners. Dogs trained to respond to voice control may be off-leash in Hubbard Park—but not at North Branch.

Preparation for the coming winter season includes consideration of a proposal by the Montpelier Area Mountain Bike Association (MAMBA), which was submitted to the Parks Commission this month. The proposal requests expanded access to selected trails for fat bikes beyond the trails MAMBA built traversing the hill along the east side of North Branch Park more than a decade ago.

Beyer’s long experience negotiating among potentially conflicting user interests has established, at a minimum, a perspective for balancing the safety and tranquility of a great variety of users. “Geoff has always emphasized making the parks an enjoyable experience for everyone,” said Carolyn Grodinsky, who has served on the Parks Commission since 2015.

His concern with education and the well-being of children will not be put aside with his retirement at the end of the month. Thanks to a grant, Beyer will create a create a program to help parents reduce risk behavior among pre-adolescents as they enter the teen years.

Alec Ellsworth, supervisor of parks and trees, has been named as Beyer’s successor.