Summer recreation programs are fun for local kids, but also important because they provide jobs for teenagers and child care that helps working parents get through the summer months. But rec is not happening in Eastham, Wellfleet, or Truro this summer — all three recreation departments have decided to cancel their annual programs.
Provincetown, however, has found a way to go forward. “We have the safety of all the children as the number one priority,” said Recreation Director Brandon Motta, “and we will be welcoming these children back, with a contactless high five.”
In Eastham, Christine Mickle, the recreation director, said cancellation was “a real difficult decision.” She and her colleagues concluded that “there was just no way to do it safely or even for the kids to have fun.”
Mickle said the town’s summer program typically serves up to 120 kids with 65 to 70 attending daily. Many of their parents now find themselves in a bind.
“I’ve told my work I’m not going to go back until school starts,” Allie Davis said at the Eastham Recreation Commission’s June 10 meeting. Davis is a member of the commission and a mother of two.
“I don’t understand why Wellfleet didn’t do it, since it’s all outside,” said Nicole Parkington, “but I’m not surprised.” Parkington’s three children would have participated in Wellfleet Rec this summer. “It’s been hard to have them out of school for three months,” she said, and now, “to know this summer there’s no break, no chance for them to be with their friends, it’s hard.”
Kristen Roberts, co-owner of Truro Vineyards, has had two children attend the summer recreation program in Truro. For working parents, she said, many decisions are difficult right now — whether it’s reopening a business or running summer recreation. Roberts said that, although her children no longer take part in rec, they’re dealing with other summer cancellations. “When you add kids into the mix it makes everything harder,” she said.
The Wellfleet Recreation Department decided to cancel swimming lessons and summer recreation programs during a staff meeting back in May, said Suzanne Grout Thomas.
Damion Clements, who runs the recreation program in Truro, said he, the town manager, and select board collectively decided to cancel the program.
“After reviewing guidance from the state of Massachusetts and the CDC, we have determined that we will not be able to safely operate the Summer Recreation Youth Program,” reads a statement on the Truro town website. Puma Park is also closed. Clements did not provide further information.
Provincetown recreation will be offered Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The town’s plan for managing social distancing begins with keeping activities completely outdoors and being sure children remain six feet apart. Limiting the number of participants in the program should help make that work, said Motta. Registration will be limited to Massachusetts residents only and the maximum capacity of the program will be 50 children.
“Children will be broken down into five groups of 10 or fewer, based on age, and there will be two staff members to each group,” Motta said via email.
Motta said each group will have its own defined area for activities, its own access to a hand-washing station, bathrooms, and eating area. “Staff and children will stay with the same group the entire summer and will not intermix at any point,” he said.
The department will follow state guidelines and, in the event that children cannot remain six feet apart, they will then wear masks, Motta said.
The logistics are complex. There will be no field trips, no visitors or volunteers, children will have their own supplies for each activity, and each age group will have its own designated drop-off area. Daily drop-off procedures will include a health screening for symptoms related to Covid-19, and daily temperature checks, and the same protocol will be used for staff member arrivals each day.
“This year’s summer program will be different,” Motta said, “but that does not mean it will not be fun.”
Mickle said Eastham is hoping to hold some social-distanced family nights at the Field of Dreams that could include paint night, yoga night, or fitness night.
“We’ll be starting those hopefully the second week of July,” she said.
Eastham, Wellfleet, and Truro have different virtual programs that children and families can participate in. More information can be found on their recreation departments’ websites.
West End Racing Children’s Community Sailing in Provincetown, which provides inexpensive summer sailing programs for around 160 children every year, has also been canceled.
“It’s frustrating for us,” said AJ Santos of West End Sailing. “We’re a nonprofit and we’ve been doing this since the 1950s. We have a lot of dedicated employees to keep this going and we rely on community support,” he said.
Those at West End Sailing felt there was just no way to practice safe distancing while teaching children on the water. “I’m sure it’s quite a blow to a lot of families, but these are very unusual times,” Santos said.