Parks & Rec Made it Work in 2020

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Photo provided by the author

Late this summer, the Parks & Rec lifeguard chats with a visitor on a quiet day at Babb’s Beach.

As our calendars turn to the final page of 2020, I would like to offer a synopsis of the Parks and Recreation programs and activities during this unique year. We have become familiar with the challenges faced by private and public organizations in performing their traditional functions, and this context is important as one considers the programming offered to our citizens during this period.

The summer camps have been a staple of the Parks and Recreation Department programs for over fifty years. As a result of careful planning and execution by Department Director Peter Leclerc and Recreation and Sports Programmer Jen Filer, the Sunrise Day Camp was operated this summer by creating a system of cohorts, similar to the system developed by Suffield Public Schools. The campers rotated between sites in order to keep numbers down at each location. The department also operated the Kids Korner day camp for children from Kindergarten through 2nd grade.

Suffield’s town beaches at Sunrise Park and Babb’s Beach were also in operation this summer; furthermore, both locations were very well attended throughout the hot and dry summer. At both beaches there were lifeguards on duty for most of the season and gate attendants worked at Babb’s to monitor daily traffic and collect fees from out of town visitors who came to enjoy our park.

Another popular long-standing program is the Bowling Buddies Group, which would normally dominate much of the Bradley Bowl/Spare Time bowling alley for many years on Tuesday evenings. This important program for our special needs community was no longer possible because of attendant risks. As an alternative, Donna Carney-Bastrzycki, Director of Special Programs, has organized weekly trivia, bingo, and dance parties for the bowling group. Further, as it’s not feasible to operate most exercise programs indoors, the department has partnered with local businesses to run programs either at the Bruce Park pavilion or via Zoom. Programs include Bootcamp and Power Burn Workout, run by Joseph Hicks; ‘Happy Healthy Workout – Meet Me at the Barre’ by Sarah Supino; and Energizing Vinyasa Flow Yoga program by Laura Dromgold.

This fall, two of our youth programs, soccer and field hockey, were operated successfully and both drew very good participation numbers. Over 200 of Suffield’s youth community participated in the recreation soccer program and 22 girls participated in the field hockey skills development and intramural program.

As the school year progressed this fall, it became evident that there was a need for a recreation/education program for families who do not have parental supervision available for their children during the ‘distance learning’ days. In order to fill this need for a limited number of children (due to space and staff limitations) the Parks and Recreation Department collaborated with the Superintendent’s Office to develop the program. After much planning, the S-PREP program (Suffield Parks and Recreation Enrichment Program) is now being operated out of youth services, and the senior center and provides approximately 20 students, grades 1-6, with supervision and recreation activities during school hours.

 Finally, the Connecticut Recreation and Parks Association recently selected the new playground at Sunrise Park as the 2020 Park/Facility of Merit Award Winner for the State of Connecticut. This project was a collaborative effort between the Conservation Commission and Parks and Recreation, replacing and expanding the run down playground with a new forest themed playground area. As we move to end of 2020 and the start of 2021, the department continues to strive to provide recreation and athletics programs for the benefit of Suffield’s citizens so that Suffield may continue to be a very special place to live. 

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