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Sargeant leaves legacy of park improvements

POLSON - Karen Sargeant started her first day as the Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Polson on March 29, 2004 and now, almost 12 years later, is “sad to say goodbye, but looking forward to the new challenge” as she becomes the new Parks and Recreation and Community Service Director for the city of Chelan, Washington.

“I have so many great memories while living and working here,” Sargeant said. “I have been very blessed while I have been in Polson.”

Before moving to Polson, Sargeant worked in many different jobs in various locations that involve the outdoors, but she mentioned it is not just the nature that makes the jobs special.

“I have made friends everywhere I have gone. I can’t count on one hand where I moved to a place where I didn’t know a living soul,“ Sargeant said. “The amount of friends I have made is just crazy. Every job I have had … also had many amazing people that made it so special.”

Polson City Manager Mark Shrives will remember Sargeant as someone who was always willing to reach out and help. 

“It just didn’t have to be the parks,” Shrives said. “It was also her involvement with the Fire Department, other City departments and the community as a whole.”

Sargeant has put in a lot of hard work in Polson and would like to see the community continue to support trails, sidewalks, and pathways. Sargeant said her biggest achievement was the Safe and Accessible Street Policy that was put in place to create and maintain paths the community and tourists use.

“This town is surrounded by beautiful nature and that is going to bring more people to Polson,” Sargeant said. “If you want those people to continue to come back ... then you have to have the facilities. Keep the momentum going because we have a really good thing here, and a supportive community.”

One of the great facilities is the Polson Skatepark, which Shrives said wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Sargeant. 

“She worked with a great group of youth who were able to fundraise locally and were also able to obtain a grant,” Shrives said. “This hard work paid off and we now have a great skate park for our local youth. That success has now started the planning and fundraising for an addition to the current skate park.”

Polson Mayor Heather Knutson also commented on how Sargeant has impacted the community. 

“She had a lot of pride in the city’s parks, trails and recreational opportunities,” Knutson said. “As a volunteer firefighter, I know she gave countless hours towards keeping our community safe.”

Through the years, Sargeant created her own technique to “get a feel for the area” when she starts new jobs. 

“To get to know my parks I take my trash tongs and go pick up trash,” she said, allowing her to focus her mind on what the parks look like, what safety issues she sees, and observe who else is visiting the parks.

The technique has earned her a title.

“Older coworkers have nicknamed me the ‘Tong Queen,’ and yes I’ll be taking the tongs with me to Chelan,” she said.

Sargeant’s love of nature didn’t go unnoticed by those with whom she’s worked closely.

“I think her ‘legacy’ so to speak will be her concern for the parks and always looking for a way to make the parks better for our community members and for our visitors,” Shrives said. “All of this done with a limited budget.”

Before Sargeant started her new ‘legacy’ in Chelan on Monday, March 21, she left some advice for whoever fills her position in Polson.

“It does not matter how much education you have to help a city and its parks,” Sargeant said. “It’s all about how much passion a person has.”  

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