It was a summer of baseball, swimming, movies — everything the season is supposed to be for little kids, big kids and families of all sizes.
Added all up, more than 9,452 people were involved or affected by City of Merced recreation programs this summer.
“We had a great summer, and I think the kids and parents would agree,” said Parks and Recreation Director Joey Chavez. “We heard lots of good things from the participants in everything from our new Junior Giants to our aquatics programs. And while our focus is on youth recreation, we also have a very strong focus on the family, because we believe that summer offers a time for parents and children to be together.”
City Manager Steve Carrigan agreed, saying: “Every summer we try to keep our youth occupied with a variety of activities, and make them affordable for everyone. Many of our programs are free, or very low cost. We try not to turn anyone away. … More than 10 percent of our population was somehow involved in city-related recreational activities. That’s good for a city our size, but we can work to do even better.”
This year the city started up a Junior Giants Baseball and Softball Program. It’s a free, coed, noncompetitive program that focuses on character development, where all the equipment is supplied at no cost. There were 344 kids playing this year.
While the girls and boys of summer were out playing on their fields of dreams, there were lots more kids splashing in City-run pools. More than 2,000 youth took part in recreation swimming opportunities at the McNamara and Golden Valley pools to beat the heat during the summer days. Even more heartening, was that a record 1,125 youngsters took swim lessons at McNamara and Merced High pools.
The Summer Playground Program has been popular program with the department, and 391 kids from ages K-6 enjoyed recreational activities from water play to field trips.
The Merced Youth Council was out conducting their own activities this summer, holding park clean ups and community outreach activities that contacted approximately 200 people. Just before summer vacation started, they held Town Hall meetings that attracted 1,200 high school students.
The City Council has stressed youth recreation, but also wanted family fun activities, too, and those saw a continued interest this summer. This was boosted by partnerships with community groups who wanted to boost recreational opportunities.
One partner was All Dad’s Matter, the sponsor of a free entrance day to Applegate Park Zoo as part of their annual Celebration of Fatherhood and it was a hit. The Zoo had 534 kids of all ages come through to enjoy the monkeys, bears, goats and llamas. A free day for dads on Father’s Day at the Zoo brought in 88 fathers. Mothers weren’t left out, 88 of them received free admission on Mother’s Day.)
Another was the Merced Environmental Literacy Collective, which conducted the Wild Wednesday Lecture Series and the Nature Play at the Zoo. Those events, attracted 66 people
“Mermaids and Pirates” was a water-themed day in August that attracted 400 Zoo-goers, for arts and crafts, popsicles and face painting. Also at the Zoo was Zoo Talks, a popular Saturday program that attracted more than 450 people. This doesn’t even count the regular daily Zoo attendees.
The most popular family fun activity was Movies in the Park, a series of flicks that played in parks throughout the City. The series began in spring and is continuing through October, but seven played during the summer months and attracted more than 1,000 people.
The Summer at City Hall program was back again, with teens learning about how local government worked. Wannabe tennis stars took to the courts for two sessions of the City’s tennis program, there were volleyball lessons offered, and chefs could take free cooking classes. Those programs attracted 120 youth.
And, adults weren’t left out. More than 700 took part in the men, women and coed Summer Softball Leagues.