From The World Of Parks & Recreation
By Doug Comer
As we close the chapter of another school year, Parks and Recreation is gearing up for its summer parks program aptly named “It starts in the parks.” Director Mike Book, who has been in the business for over 30 years, has a wide assortment of stories about the program as he explains.
“When I first started with Parks and Recreation I was still a student in school. And just like today, our job was to be on site and keep kids busy through organized games, activities and overall fun. It was a great summer job and later it turned out to be a career for me. We started out working out of the back of my car and today we have the Recreation Complex. It has been quite a journey.”
And the recognition that Book receives is pretty cool too. I just happened to see my boss in passing at a local restaurant and during check out, a little girl recognized him as the guy at Parks and Rec. And, even though we have roughly 4,000 students pass through for our enrichment programs, he simply smiles and says “yeah, I remember you too.” It is just what he does, and the kids love him for it.
“It’s funny how you remember a ton of faces, but putting a name to it sometimes gets a little difficult,” says Book. “I have had adults in their 30s and 40s talk about their experiences with the summer parks programs. They say how those days were their favorite times growing up and those who worked for me often thank me for the experience they had as a park leader.”
My role at the parks is to go around and see how the programs are looking and to put any fires that are beyond the staff’s authority. And to be honest, you lose what age you are and find yourself taking a few minutes shooting hoops with kids on the court or playing checkers with someone who just started playing the game.
While I am sure that Book’s book of stories contains a ton more chapters than mine, the best memory I have is this little girl who was at one of our parks two years ago who was learning how to jump rope. Each day that I would see her, she would tug on my t-shirt and ask me to watch how she progressed. And by the end of the summer, I think she could have given Rocky a run for his money on the jump rope.
Even to this day, I see her at one of the after school programs she is involved in and I get a tug on the shirt and a little side hug and then she tells me about school. She has been in our program since the beginning and I am sure I will see her again in a few weeks when we open up.
Our parks and recreation program is geared for students between the ages of six through 12 and we have seven sites throughout Harrison County. Those include North View Park, Nutter Fort School (playground in back), Salem International University, Shinnston City Park, Summit Park Recreation Complex, West Milford Community Center and Wilsonburg Elementary.
The program begins Monday, June 20th and the program is free of charge to all that participate in the program. And during this program, three sites, North View, Wilsonburg and Salem International, offer the Energy Express Program to those students that qualify for the program. It is a summer reading program that allows students the opportunity to continue their reading skills while engaging in social activities. Lunch and a snack will be provided to all parks and recreation sites while those in the EE program will have family-style breakfast and lunch on site.
The park’s program is geared to provide the children in Harrison County a place where they can be active, meet new friends and take part in a lifetime of memories. I am sure that many of you that read this article are familiar with the parks program and can remember the good times you had during your summers.
For more information, please contact our office or look for us on the website.