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Welcome to the employee focus page on the EVRPD website, where each month, a district employee will be featured on this page. The employee may be new or they may be a seasoned worker, but they will always be someone with an interesting story about why they love working for the District.
Previous Employee Focus articles
Ivana Knudson, Bringing Fresh Enthusiasm to the Estes Valley Community Center .
The Estes Valley Community Center has a new guest services manager. She is a fierce, competitive, enthusiastic, educated woman excited to be working at the new facility.
Ivana Knudson started with EVRPD as the Guest Services Manager of the Estes Valley Community Center on Friday, March 1, and by the end of that first weekend she was already in a groove of making things happen.
As she and I were chatting for this piece, she shared that she also loves hiking, has traveled all over the world, and was on a Junior Olympic triathlon team.
“I was a professional athlete at home; I was on the Slovak Junior Olympic team for triathlon,” said Ivana. “I prepped for the Olympic team but was also accepted into a university program at the same time, so I went to university instead and became a physical education teacher. Looking back, I am very happy with my choice.”
Ivana was born in Czechoslovakia along the Polish border in a town near the beautiful High Tatras National Park. High Tatras is a sister park to Rocky Mountain National Park, so it seems Ivana was always destined to be in our mountain town.
After college, Ivana went on to complete her Master of Education in Mathematics and Physical Education from Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia. But her career took her to the Middle East where she worked for an oil spill response company.
It was during this time that she met her husband, Jason, who happened to grow up in Estes Park, basecamp for that sister national park near her home.
Jason was in the U.S. Navy so after marrying they traveled extensively for his position in the military. They went to the United Arab Emirates, Virginia, New York, South Carolina, Washington, Maryland, Washington, D.C., California and her favorite, Japan. They started their family during these hectic years and Ivana also completed her Master of Business Administration at the University of Maryland.
“I loved living in Japan, but the traveling was hard on our kids,” said Ivana, mother of three active boys. “Jason retired last year after a 20-year career in the navy, so we decided to move back to his hometown.”
Ivana stressed that being in nature and the mountains feels like home to her.
“As much as I miss living in Japan, I love the mountains,” said Ivana. “The mountains are a peaceful, calm place and a great place to raise our kids.”
For EVRPD, Ivana hopes to bring the same joy she exudes when talking about her family and her love of traveling and the outdoors.
When asked what she hopes to accomplish with EVRPD, she said, “I would love to help us fulfill EVRPD’s mission ‘To enrich lives with quality recreation.’ I look at recreation as a way to recreate yourself—spiritually, physically, mentally. It is a powerful mission—touching lives of others.”
What attracted Ivana to her new role was an incredible opportunity to become a part of a growing and developing organization with so much potential. “We need to unleash the potential,” said Ivana. “EVCC is an incredible place, however, it is still in its early stages of development. It is a startup, and there is nothing more rewarding—professionally and personally—than to serve as the compass to navigate every step of its development. It is truly an honor and privilege to play a role in the center’s daily transformation.”
For more information about the Estes Valley Community Center or to reach out to Ivana, visit www.evrpd.com.
Austin has been playing golf at the Estes Park 18-Hole Golf Course since he was a toddler.
His Dad introduced him to the sport and gave him his first lessons until Austin’s first clinic at six years old. He participated every year, progressed into the junior golf program at the age of 9 and continued into weekly classes.
“I loved getting better and seeing results right away,” said Austin, Assistant Golf Professional for the Estes Park Golf Courses. “I felt like the more competitive spirit I had, the better I got.”
But as Austin entered high school, he decided he wanted to play football. That change in direction didn’t last long because he tore his ACL playing football during his freshman year of high school.
“My knee was reconstructed at age 14 so football was out,” said Austin. “I got back into golf and made the high school team my sophomore year.”
Austin played on the high school golf team for his remaining years of high school, where he went to states for two of the three years.
But other interests drew Austin away from golf again as he entered college at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. Four years later, Austin found himself at yet another crossroads and golf again became the answer.
“I tried accounting for six months but found I didn’t want to be inside at a desk all day” said Austin. “I had worked at the golf course since 2004 in summer seasonal positions. Shortly after the 2013 flood, a position opened at the 18-hole course so I applied. I started my first full-time position with Estes Park Golf Courses in January 2014.”
Today, as the Assistant Golf Professional and a student in the PGA Certified Professional Program working towards his PGA A certification, Austin is the right-hand man to Mark Miller, Manager of Golf Services.
“I take on a wide-variety of daily tasks,” said Austin. “I organize tournaments, give lessons, help manage our staff, check people in, work with pass holders, manage the men’s and ladies clubs, manage handicaps, work in the pro shop, help with merchandising and organize marketing efforts.”
Austin’s immediate professional goals are to complete his PGA A certification, which takes three years. He hopes that will open new opportunities for him. He recognizes that the golf industry is facing heavy challenges but hopes that he can continue to give people a good time on the Estes Park golf courses.
“My role here really is to get as many people on the courses as possible, make sure they are having fun, and to make sure they are staying safe,” said Austin. “I want players to go home and tell their friends that our course was a really fun place to be. Our courses have never been in better shape, especially considering it is very tough to have green grass in an arid climate at high altitude. The courses are short but they are a good challenge and that is a great thing for Estes Park.”
Besides playing on the Estes Park golf courses, Austin dreams of playing the St. Andrews Golf Club in Scotland and Bethpage State Park Golf Course in Farmingdale, N.Y.
Outside of golf, Austin also dreams of getting married, having kids and teaching them golf just like his own Dad did for him.
For more information about EVRPD golf courses or to reach out to Austin, visit www.evrpd.com.
Nolan Oberg recently joined the Estes Valley Recreation and Park District as the Recreation Coordinator for Sports and Athletics but his roles within the District and with the Estes Valley community actually started four years ago.
Nolan comes to Estes Park by way of Berea, Kentucky, a small town located 113 miles southeast of Louisville in central Kentucky’s Blue Grass Region.
He first came to Colorado shortly after college to work at Peaceful Valley Resort near Estes Park. He met his wife there. He enthralled her with a first date at McDonald’s. She was smitten.
But a new job took him back to the southeast. This time he went to Louisiana to help residents of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in his new role with Reach Global Crisis Response, a long-term recovery group.
“An opportunity came up with Reach Global Crisis Response back in Colorado after the 2013 flood, and I jumped at the chance to return to Estes Park,” said Nolan. “My wife and I moved back here where I was now working as the volunteer coordinator for Larimer County through Reach Global Crisis Response. I worked as liaison between homeowners, volunteer groups and construction managers. It was a great job because I helped communities from Red Feathers to Bellevue to Big Elk Meadows.”
Between his moves from Colorado, Kentucky and Louisiana, Nolan and his wife, Anna, started a family. His three boys—Gabe, Harry and Boone, now 8, 6 and 4, respectively—were starting to get involved with sports and Nolan saw an opportunity to get back to his love of sports while spending time with his kids.
“I started with EVRPD in the fall of 2014 as the volunteer coach for soccer,” said Nolan. “My love for sports started as a child and then evolved in college where I worked at the Berea College Athletic Complex. After college, I joined the staff at Berea College, served on the athletics advisory committee and helped coach the school’s soccer team.”
His volunteer position with EVRPD bloomed into a part-time position as site supervisor for the baseball summer programs.
“I was still doing flood recovery at that time but that opportunity ended in late 2016 and the EVRPD position opened up in early 2017,” said Nolan. “I jumped at the chance to show how much I could bring to the recreation team.”
In his role as Recreation Coordinator, Nolan provides families and adults with recreational opportunities throughout the year with high-quality and fun experiences.
“There are lots of logistics and hats to wear—volunteer management, scheduling, programming, fundraising, marketing, public relations, web content management, customer service—but every day I feel like I get to use all of my skills,” said Nolan. “It’s really fun and the day flies by. Anybody can put bases down but to do it well you need lots of skills.”
In his new role with EVRPD, Nolan has plans to:
- Improve community outreach by taking recreation to the communities EVRPD serves, such as Big Elk Meadows, Drake, Glen Haven and Pinewood Springs
- Working with leaders of the Spanish-speaking population of Estes Valley to expand recreation opportunities
- Using recreation to build a sense of community through traditional and non-traditional sports
- Build outdoor recreation programs in partnership with local businesses
- Integration with other EVRPD departments for recreation programs
Nolan says he loves living in Estes Park and being a part of such a wonderful community.
“Every day I feel fortunate that I get to live here,” said Nolan. “There is beauty all around us, and that is something I don’t take for granted.”
Outside of work, Nolan and his family spend time hiking, camping and staying active with their church.
For more information about EVRPD recreation programs or to reach out to Nolan, visit www.evrpd.com.
NOTE: In late 2018, Nolan's hard work was recognized and he was promoted to Recreation Manager overseeing all aspects of recreation and special interest for EVRPD.