Outdoors just part of the job for this city worker

John Fiskum could post a “Gone Fishing” sign on his office door at the city of Kent Senior Activity Center and still be on the job.

John Fiskum

John Fiskum could post a “Gone Fishing” sign on his office door at the city of Kent Senior Activity Center and still be on the job.

In fact, when Helena Reynolds first joined the staff at the Senior Center she didn’t even meet Fiskum for another week or so because he had taken a group of seniors on a fishing expedition to Alaska.

Fiskum could post a similar sign for the hiking, biking, skiing and rafting trips he leads as a program coordinator at the Kent Senior Activity Center, part of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services department.

“I like to be able to provide the opportunity and experiences for people that they would not necessarily do on their own, such as cross country skiing,” Fiskum said Monday at a table outside the senior center. “I take them, show them how, and it’s rewarding to me when they participate in an activity that becomes a big part of their life, their wellness and their social circles.”

Even before Fiskum could walk, his father would carry him in a backpack while fishing Oregon’s rivers. Growing up in Portland, Fiskum learned how to fish from his father and now teaches a weekly fly-tying class at the senior center as well as leading fishing tours.

Fiskum, 47, in his 20th year with the city, also works part-time as a fly-fishing guide on the Yakima River and Eastern Washington lakes and streams.

Quite a switch from Fiskum’s initial career as a high school teacher and coach. Fiskum graduated from Judson Baptist College in The Dalles, Ore., and taught and coached for five years in Oregon before moving to Maple Valley to be a teacher and boys basketball coach at Tahoma High School.

But after one year at Tahoma, Fiskum decided to switch careers.

“I had an interest in outdoor recreation and activities I did myself,” said Fiskum, who has a minor in recreation along with a teaching degree. “The first position that became available happened to be at the Kent Senior Center. It was not my goal to work with senior adults, but I took the job to get my foot in the door in parks and recreation in the city.”

Two decades later, Fiskum has helped develop one of the most active senior centers around with the numerous outdoor adventure trips and tours.

“The more I worked with senior adults, the more I started to enjoy it,” Fiskum said. “And I found there was a huge marketing opportunity for recreation programs that were not happening but could be.”

Besides numerous day trips to bike, hike, raft or fish, Fiskum has led ski tours to Idaho and Colorado as well as fishing trips to Alaska.

“Most (senior centers) don’t have an adventure program,” said Reynolds, in her 18th year with the city and one of three program coordinators at the Kent Senior Center. “Because of John’s expertise, he’s able to facilitate that for the senior Center to our 50-Plus program. “It’s wonderful for the city to have a vision beyond these walls.”

Outside work, Fiskum, a Maple Valley resident, participates in many of the same activities he does on the job. He enjoys skiing and fishing with his wife, Stephanie, and their four daughters and a son, ages 2 to 22.

“The focus is with my kids and we do it as a family,” said Fiskum, who has been married for 25 years.

He plans to remain in parks and recreation. He said working with Reynolds and Cindy VandenBerg, also a program coordinator with the city, has enabled him to focus on an active outdoor program for the senior center.

“These are activities I’ve done most of my life,” Fiskum said. “I’m an avid angler and I like biking, hiking and skiing. It’s rewarding to participate with people to share my years of experience.”

Contact Steve Hunter at 253-872-6600, ext. 5052 or shunter@reporternewspapers.com.

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