Parks and Recreation prioritizing safety precautions alongside fun and games

Jul 30, 2020 by

Published July 30, 2020

By ALLIE HASTINGS

GOOD, clean fun. Stephanie Rogers discovers the color reaction that results when milk and food color meet with dish soap during Recreation’s Silly Science summer enrichment program. (Lynne Clemens Photo)

NORTH READING — It has been a challenging and unexpected year for us all, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect every aspect of the economy and our everyday lifestyles.

As state and CDC restrictions concerning social distancing protocols begin to loosen, local organizations and businesses are navigating the ways in which they can start to branch out while keeping all community members safe and protected from the virus.

Ever since the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, Parks and Recreation Director Lynne Clemens has been working non-stop with her staff members to provide programs for the community that allow all participants to remain engaged in events while being kept socially distanced from one another.

Given that the organization does not currently have access to many public facilities, such as the L.D. Batchelder School gymnasium, where its SummerScape program typically occurs, they have moved all indoor activities to the Recreation Center, located at 15 Central Street at Ipswich River Park where all seating stations have been spaced six feet apart, in accordance with CDC guidelines.

Parks and Rec officials have also gotten into the habit of wiping down all surfaces in the building with EPA spray cleansers between every session to ensure that the space remains as sterile as possible from top to bottom.

Despite the unforeseen restrictions and limitations, Clemens has found innovative means for keeping the youth in the community actively involved and entertained. Earlier this summer, Parks and Recreation staff members successfully managed to run “Silly Scientists” and “Outside the Lines,” two skill-building programs designated for kids ages 7 to 12. This past week, children enrolled in the “Pay it Forward” program and put their creative talents to work by making various crafts and items for the town’s essential workers and hometown heroes.

Projects completed during the “Pay it Forward” program included donating blankets to Project Linus, sending handmade suncatchers to residents at local nursing homes, creating dog play ropes and bandanas to give to animal shelters, and drawing cards for nurses, firefighters, police and military personnel.

Yoga in the Park

Outdoor activities have continued to take place around town as usual, albeit with limited registration options. Yoga in the Park is running weekly for all ages, and the now sold-out summer golf program is being held at the Hillview Country Club grounds on North Street. Tennis programs taught by longtime instructor Matt Tiberii are also up-and-running at the North Reading High School tennis courts; currently there is an opening at the pee-wee level, for 4- to 5-year-olds, with classes running from 8:15 to 9 a.m.

Heading into August, Parks and Rec will be running a youth enrichment program for two weeks called “It’s all Fun and Games” to encourage outdoor play, friendly competitions and interactive games that require no physical contact between those involved.

Kids will try their luck participating in uniquely designed relay races, including a popcorn shoe race, marshmallow shooter activity, egg toss and water balloon toss, as well as a minute-to-win-it competition and chalk obstacle course.

The first week’s events will run from Monday, August 3 – Thursday, August 6, with the second week picking up on Monday, August 10 – Thursday, August 13.

More to come this summer

In an effort to encourage more outdoor activity before classes resume, Clemens is looking forward to implementing a couple of additional programs to Parks and Rec’s summer lineup, which will take place during the last two weeks of August. She is hoping to run both an archery program at the Rita Mullin Field on Lowell Road, where kids would be supplied with the appropriate tools and materials needed, and a mini sports clinic, where participants would learn the skills and drills of various sports, including basketball, flag football, soccer and volleyball.

Although enrollment numbers have not been as high as previous years due to COVID-19, Clemens is proud of her staff members for maintaining social distancing protocols, and she feels satisfied that Parks and Recreation is taking all the right steps to ensure that upholding these safe environments remains a top priority.

“The programs we are running are going above and beyond the guidelines that the state has set up. I feel really confident and really comfortable with what we’re running, and I feel like the kids are really safe. I wouldn’t run them if I didn’t feel this way,” she said.

A virtual alternative

Clemens is also planning to add a virtual alternative to the Parks and Rec summer schedule for North Reading families who may not want to enroll their children in group programs that meet in-person. Virtual programming by Code Wiz will kick off around the same time as the archery and mini sports clinic programs. Activities will range from game design to Minecraft Modding and Python coding.

Fall fluidity

Looking ahead to the months of September and October, Parks and Rec will remain fluid with its scheduling and programming details as state restrictions open or tighten up. While nothing is set in stone at the moment, Clemens is hoping that popular activities such as tennis and Yoga in the Park will continue to run into the fall, as well as the new up-and-coming mini sports clinic she is excited to introduce to the community.

Even though Clemens misses the normalcy of welcoming hundreds of youth into Parks and Rec’s summer programs, she says it’s “been a pleasure to see the kids that have come.” She urges parents to keep checking the Parks and Rec website – as well as email blasts and Transcript posts – as events may continue to be added as town guidelines change.

Contact information

Give North Reading Parks and Recreation a call at 978-664-6016 or go online to www.northreadingma.gov/parks-recreation for more information on programming.

Maintaining the safety of all children participating in their programs remains the staff’s top priority. Parents can be assured that North Reading Recreation has worked diligently with the Massachusetts Recreation and Parks Association, local officials and the town’s Board of Health to provide quality programming for the community while adhering to all COVID-19 guidelines.

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