Hot fun in the summertime: Dover Parks & Rec set for busy season

DOVER — With school calendars quickly winding down Kirby Hudson, the city of Dover’s Parks and Recreation director, wants everyone to know that his staff is ready and eager to serve children’s recreational needs this summer.

Mr. Hudson notes that Dover’s Parks and Recreation program offers a wide variety of programming from summer day camps, to Zumba, several different sports camps and even has opportunities for adults and families, such as Concerts on the Green and open gym.

The offerings are not strictly bound to Schutte Park on the west side of Dover — home base to the city’s Parks and Recreation office — but also branch out to many of the other 26 parks that are regularly maintained by the parks staff.

Mr. Hudson said the staff’s recent concentration on improving ‘curb appeal’ at the parks at the direction of Dover City Council is making a difference.

“I think that if we continue on with the programming and if we continue on with the curb appeal, it’s only going to bring more people out,” he said.

“I’ve heard at least a dozen people within the last month who are bringing their kids in to sign up for any one of the sports programs. I’ve heard people say, ‘This is my first time here, I never knew you guys were here,’ which is kind of mind-boggling to me, because I find out there are people who live here and don’t even know (Schutte Park) even exists.

“Sometimes you can drive right past something and not even notice it, but one little slight improvement might catch someone’s eye. I know I heard a couple of people say when they were driving down White Oak Road that they never knew that Dover Park was back there and what caught their eye was when we got rid of all that vegetation in front of the pond there. What we’d like to do is get some new signage out there as well.”

Return of Tuesday in the Park
Margie Cyr, director of the Dover Public Library, said her department is working hand-in-hand with parks and rec to offer a multitude of recreational and educational programs this summer.

Ms. Cyr said the city is bringing back its “Tuesday in the Park” offerings for the second-consecutive summer.

“We started last summer, our first program was the Tuesday in the Park program, which Sherwanda (Rachal-Speaks, the city’s recreation specialist) and I worked on jointly,” Ms. Cyr said. “It was a joint project between the Dover Public Library and the city’s Parks and Recreation Department because we recognized the fact that we needed not only the Parks Department, but also the library needs to be able to take our services out into the community to reach those people who have no way to connect to either of our existing facilities.:

“So, on Tuesday mornings last summer, park staff and library staff went into four different parks and we had a program for families, and we named it Tuesday in the Park. There were three elements to each Tuesday in the Park. One was a literary enrichment another was a physical activity and then we served free lunches for the free-lunch program.”

She added, “For our first summer I thought we were very satisfied with how it worked. It brought out families, it brought out kids and it brought them all into those parks that we wanted to highlight.”

This summer’s Tuesday in the Park program schedule includes: June 18, Delaware State Parks Mobile Science Lab at Mallard Pond Park; June 25, Family Zumba at Division/Kirkwood Street Park; July 2, African Drumming with Dennis Minus at Dover Park; July 9, Brandywine Zoo at Mallard Pond Park; July 16, Songs and stories with Miss Jackie at Division/Kirkwood Street Park; July 23, Delaware State Parks Mobile Science Lab at Dover Park; July 30, Rehoboth Children’s Theatre presents “The Jungle Book” at Mallard Pond Park.

Fun at the park.

The Kent County bookmobile “Linus” will arrive at 10:45 a.m. and events will begin at 11 a.m. at all the free Tuesday in the Park programs.

“One of the things that we tried to do last summer was to make sure that each young person went home with a book or something that they could take home with them,” Ms. Cyr said. “This year we actually wanted to be able to allow them to check out books so we’re partnering with the Kent County Public Library and their bookmobile ‘Linus’ is going to be come to all the ‘Tuesday in the Parks,’ so that people actually check out books directly from the library.”

‘Spreading the love’
The Tuesday in the Park program is an example of what Mr. Hudson described as trying to “spread the love” between many different city parks in Dover.

“We’re not paying more attention to any one place than the other, other than if there is work that needs to be done,” said Mr. Hudson. “Staff does a great job in trying to promote and do things for everyone, because we do realize that there’s some people who might be hampered through transportation.

“I mean let’s face it, if you’re way on the east side and you want to come over here (Schutte Park), you may not be able to get a bus, so there are some challenges, but that’s not something that we can fix. What we try to do, if I can use the word ‘spread the love’ and put different things in different parks where everybody can have some enjoyment.”

Ms. Rachal-Speaks said she has exciting news for those families who live near Dover Park on the east side of the city this summer.

“In the summertime we are actually doing Family Move Night in collaboration with the Downtown Dover Partnership,” she said. “It will be in Dover Park once a month, I believe the first Wednesday, once per month, we will be having free Family Move Nights for families, allowing the residents on the east side the opportunity to take advantage of a free movie and popcorn.

“We just want to encourage family fun.”

Mr. Hudson noted that Dover Park is one that some people say is being overlooked when it comes to programming, but he said that is far from the case.

“One of the things that I know has been talked about (at Dover Park) is a Can-Do Park,” said Mr. Hudson. “That’s for children with mobility issues and that’s one of the things that we are looking at. There has also been talk about potentially putting out a Splash Pad, which if that were the case, I think we would probably be the first splash pad in all Kent County.”

Ms. Cyr has also partnered with parks and recreation to install “little libraries” at Dover Park, Mallard Pond Park, Bicentennial Playground, Continental Park, Mill Creek Park and Schutte Park for people to check out books to read this summer.

“The biggest thing is to activate the parks,” said Ms. Cyr.

Sports leagues, camps
Schutte Park will serve as the home base for several different youth sports leagues this summer. To see all of the many offerings and to register for leagues such as basketball, soccer, field hockey, lacrosse and others, visit https://cityofdover.recdesk.com/Community/Home.

“We get very busy,” said Steve Pickering, sports coordinator for the city of Dover. “We have all the fields out here (at Schutte Park) being used. We also partner with the Capital School District. We use both the new high school and old high school for programming as well for the fields out there.”

For those looking to keep their children ages 6 through 12 occupied this summer, the city offers a couple of day camps.

“We actually house two summer camps,” said Ms. Rachal-Speaks, who also will soon be adding CPR courses for parks and rec. “We have one that’s here (at Schutte Park) called ‘Super Summer Playground.’ If you remember being a child out on the playground at school, it’s pretty much like that. It’s play, play, play. It’s about having fun and usually during the first week of camp we always hear the parents say before they leave that their child has fallen asleep in the car because they had just that much fun and were worn out.

“The other one that we house is actually at Towne Point just through our partnership with Capital School District. It’s called ‘Camp Small Wonder.’ It’s pretty much the same camp with hours 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. and it’s a very affordable, recreational camp. We have a partnership with the (YMCA) where the children actually get to take advantage of free swim lessons.”

Mr. Hudson said his parks and recreation staff is key to ensuring the parks in the city of Dover’s success.

“These are the guys responsible for, in my opinion, making this department a huge success through all the different programs,” he said. “There are some folks who think that everything is just on this side (west) of town and nowhere else. I want to dispel a little bit of that.

“We’ve removed a lot of vegetation, not only in Dover Park but in a lot of other parks. The three new guys (the city has hired) are doing a great job. It takes a lot of work. Just getting signs cleaned and painted, just the little stuff, really helps the parks.”

Mr. Hudson just hopes that people take advantage of the programming — and are proud of their parks.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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