By Lynn Burton
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
Eric Brendlinger said he and his wife, Patty, were “kicked out” of Aspen 25 years ago when they decided they needed to find something other than seasonal employment, and also a more affordable place to live.
He had worked as a ski instructor for the Ski Co., for the Aspen Youth Program, at Colorado Rocky Mountain School and other gigs. A turning point for Eric and his family came when the City of Glenwood Springs hired him as its youth programs director at its recreation center. He held that position for seven years until the Town of Carbondale hired him as recreation program director, which included helping to fine tune the design of the as-yet un-built recreation center. The recreation center was finished in 2008.
Brendlinger, other staff members, architect John Baker and others “brainstormed” how to tweak the final design. The most noticeable element is the garage doors that open from the cardio area on the south side of the building. The original design called for the area to be open to the outside, which would leave the cardio equipment and boxing bags open. Today, recreation center users can hop on any number of exercise bikes or knock around a punching bag with the garage doors closed during the winter, or enjoy warm air when the doors are open in the summer. “I’m really glad we did (the change),” Brendlinger told The Sopris Sun this week. “It’s the only indoor spin class where people use sunscreen.”
Flash forward to October 2017, and the town hired Brendlinger as its new Parks & Recreation Director, replacing Jeff Jackel who retired on Feb. 3.
The Sopris Sun interviewed Brendlinger in his small recreation center office this week. A drawing of the late “Old Joe”, with his lined face and goofy smile, looks down on Brendlinger’s desk, as does a color photo of a large group of youth hockey program participants. He smiled and said, “yes” when asked if he played hockey growing up. His teen years and earlier were spent in freewheeling Aspen. There’s not enough space here to include his recollections of being a pre-teen and teen in Aspen. He just smiled and summed up the topic with “ … we just didn’t know (Aspen wasn’t like anywhere else) until we left.” He later referred to the book his father wrote, titled “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even: Aspen’s early years” for insights into the town and its culture. In the near future, look for Brendlinger in his office in town hall.
Looking toward the future, the town’s 2015 recreation master plan shows a new or improved swimming pool is high on the public’s wish list. Brendlinger is already thinking about new amenities that could include a “splash pad” with “water play” elements similar to the Willits fountain area, and a climbing wall where swimmers could drop into the water. Swimming pool construction probably won’t start until at least 2024, at which time the town expects to pay off the bonds that built the recreation center.
Brendlinger calls his new position his “dream job,” because he gets to work in town, helping people to maintain their health. He said his “two-wheel commute” is “pretty nice.”
Eric Brendlinger’s bio
Born: July 17, 1963
Parents: Jack and Marsha Brendlinger.
Grew up: In Aspen; parents owned and operated the Applejack Inn on Main Street starting in 1964.
Spouse: Patty Power Brendlinger (employed as a real estate agent at Colwell Banker Mason & Morse).
Children: Camden (19) and Macie (16).
Siblings: Kurt, Dina and Kira.
Education: Graduated Aspen High School (1981); University of Puget Sound in Washington (BA in Asian studies).
Residence: Graceland Drive in Hendricks Ranch.
Hobbies: Outdoors (biking, hiking, skiing, climbing, rafting); practicing languages (speaks Spanish and some Brazilian Portuguese as a ski instructor and traveling).
Published in The Sopris Sun on Feb. 9 , 2017.