Children will be returning to Mixville Park this summer to learn to swim, hike through the woods and make new friends with the return of the Parks and Recreation Department’s summer camp programs.
“We’re all excited, you know,” said Program Coordinator Timothy Weed. “I'm a lifelong Cheshire resident so it's important to me to provide as many robust programs as we can for these people.”
Registration for the town’s Mixville Adventure Camp and its Therapeutic Recreation Camp opened earlier this month. Both are scheduled to begin on June 28, having been canceled last year due to the pandemic.
There will also be some new offerings this spring and summer. A girls’ pre-season cardio program aims to get student athletes ready to return to competitive team sports after a season off.
Weed said there’s been a general increase in the number of sports injuries as athletes try to resume practice regimens.
The department is also adding a cornhole league, expanded pickleball guided play and leagues, and prenatal barre classes led by a local yoga instructor.
With assistance from the Cheshire Lions Club, the town is also organizing a “Bartlem Park Safari” on a parcel of land that the town purchased to the south of Bartlem park, known as the Chapman property. The Lions are creating eight wooden cutouts of animals, including a 14-foot-tall giraffe, and fact sheets about the wildlife to place along the walking paths that criss-cross the land.
“We’re trying to continue using that space as we’re developing an identity for it,” Weed said of the Chapman property. The town is currently examining proposals to expand Bartlem Park onto the 10-acre parcel.
Some of the town’s activities have remained canceled due to the risk of coronavirus transmission, including bus trips and the indoor Camp Sizzler that has run in concert with the school district’s summer enrichment programs, which have also been canceled.
Chesprocott Health Director Maura Esposito has been working with Weed’s department to ensure the town is ready for whatever precautions the state may require. She recommends that camp administrators create multiple written plans to address different requirements for cohort sizes, sanitation schedules, and quarantine protocols for participants who test positive for COVID-19.
So long as camp can be held in a safe manner, Esposito said, children are in need of the mental health benefits of group activities.
“Working as teams helps a person develop not only how to problem-solve, but to become a healthier individual. Camp and all those activities are such a great opportunity for kids to develop and I know that the lack of socialization over the past year has impacted a lot of kids,” she said.
The Southington-Cheshire Community YMCA is also looking forward to bringing back its summer camp, which was held last summer with adjustments to cohort sizes and holding activities outdoors.
“I feel confident in that we had a great plan last year and all of our precautions worked, so we proved that we could do it, and do it safely and the right way,” said Justin Hubeny, outdoor center director at Camp Sloper in Southington.
Last year, Camp Sloper saw an average of between 500 and 600 kids a day and 150 staff members on-site. A typical summer season usually sees averages of around 700 to 800 children, and they’ve already received registration for over 600 campers for this season.
Though they were able to hold the bulk of their programs last summer, the YMCA was unable to hold its before- and after-camp care and could not bus children whose parents were unable to bring them. Hubeny hopes that the state guidelines that will be coming out over the next few months will permit both of those to resume this year.