Long-time director steps down at Old Town Hot Springs | SteamboatToday.com

Long-time director steps down at Old Town Hot Springs

Pat Carney's office is filled with historic photographs of the pools and bathhouse at the Old Town Hot Springs. The longtime executive director of the Old Town Hot Springs will step down from the position on April 1. Carney has served in the position since 1975.

— Steamboat Springs was a different place when Pat Carney arrived in the early 1970s.

The population was just over 2,000 people, the landscape in downtown looked far different and the pools and buildings that surrounded the Heart Springs were just starting to take shape.

"I grew up in Rhode Island, went to Colby College and came to Colorado to ski," Carney said.

Carney was just 28 when she moved to Steamboat and she said she was happy to land a job managing the naturally-heated pool on east side of downtown. At the time, the facility, now known as Old Town Hot Springs, included a small bathhouse and covered hot pool.

Carney still recalls the early years when the facility faced financial problems that threatened to close the doors, and some doubted the impact Carney would have, not only on the pool operations, but on a facility that has become a landmark in our mountain town.

"We like to think that it is the heart of the community," Carney said. "It's a place where people can go hang out and feel good and that makes me happy."

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When she steps down as executive director of Old Town Hot Springs this April, Carney will be just shy of 42 years running the day-to-day operations of the nonprofit recreational facility.

Today, Old Town Hot Springs has 6,500 members and sees around 300,000 visits a year.

It looks far different than it did when she arrived and has undergone six major renovations.

The facility now includes eight different naturally-heated pools, aquatic climbing walls, massage therapy, childcare, eight lap lanes, a fitness center, water slide and tennis courts. Through it all, Carney has never lost sight of Old Town Hot Springs’ place in the community, or its importance.

"It's an icon," Carney said. "It's been here since the Indians and since Crawford came in 1875 — how can it not be here? It's one of the bookends of downtown Steamboat Springs. It's the first thing you see when you drive into downtown.”

Carney said improvements could not have occurred without the board members she served under, the great staff members she worked with or without the support of the Steamboat Springs community.

"It's the community gathering place … It's the place where local people can go. This community needs this place to be healthy for the next 50 years," Carney said. "It grows or it dies, and this place can't die. I'm pretty attached to this place, and it would kill me if in 10 years, it was run into the ground."

Carney, who just turned 70, said she is looking forward to stepping down in April, but that doesn't mean she will be packing her bags and leaving for Arizona or Florida.

"I don't know where I would rather live than here," Carney said. "I have a beautiful house in Fairview, and I can walk out the backdoor and up Emerald any time. I sit in that house and I feel lucky that I have some choices about what I can do when I’m done."

For now, Carney plans to work a little less, but she will remain with Old Town Hot Springs as a project director and advisor. She said her main goal will be organizing the next phase of the facility as it looks to the future.

Operations Director Stephanie Orozco will take over as executive director on April 1.

"I'm honored to fill the big shoes that Pat leaves behind, and I look forward to continuing to serve the health and wellness needs of the community of Steamboat Springs,” said Orozco, who has lived in Steamboat since 1994.

“I believe we have a great staff in place at Old Town Hot Springs that will allow us to face the challenges and seize the opportunities the future has in store for this organization," Orozco added.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966