Summer camp details announced by Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources director

Far fewer slots to be allowed for children, in effort to promote safety amid COVID-19 pandemic

Editor’s note: The Sarasota News Leader is providing general reporting on the novel coronavirus to readers for free as a public service.

This is the cover of the 2020 Summer Camp Guide that Sarasota County staff produced. Because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, a number of changes have been implemented since it was printed. Image courtesy Sarasota County

During a May 26 Facebook Live interview, the director of Sarasota County’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources (PRNR) Department, made what she acknowledged was “a long-awaited announcement about summer camps.”

Registration for both day camps and specialty camps will begin at 9 a.m. on June 8, Nicole Rissler said during an interview with Donn Patchen, director of the county’s Communications Department. The five weekly camp sessions will begin on Monday, June 29, Rissler added. They will continue through July 31.

The day camps are for children entering grades 1-5, a county webpage points out.

A sixth weeklong camp will be offered both at Colonial Oaks Park and Woodmere Park from Aug. 3-7 (pending registrations and staff availability), a county news release said.

Parents who registered children for camps the past two years were to get an email notice about the update later on May 26, Rissler noted during the interview.

“We know [this] has been on many, many parents’ minds,” Rissler said of the concern about whether the county would conduct summer camps amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Registration will be conducted online, she continued, but an in-person opportunity will be provided at Twin Lakes Park on the morning of June 8. Twin Lakes Park is located at 6700 Clark Road in Sarasota.

The county news release noted that registration forms also may be dropped off, but payment must be by check only.

Further, Rissler explained during the interview that camps will be “a little different this year.” In the past, she continued, camps had between 60 and 120 slots for youngsters. “This year,” Rissler said, “we will be at 50 slots per week at each of our five sites.”

The goal is to protect county staff members and counselors, as well as the youngsters, she noted.

Additionally, no field trips will be offered for day campers, she pointed out, because of the need for social distancing in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “But we will make sure we will have a variety of people coming to our camps to do presentations and fun activities.”

Nicole Rissler. Photo courtesy Sarasota County

Moreover, Rissler continued, “We will have enhanced cleaning at all of our sites throughout the summer.”

The May 26 county news release included these updates, as well:

  • All indoor reservations are cancelled through June 14.
  • All special events and one-off reservations for outdoor events are cancelled through June 14.
  • Recurring programs/reservations may start June 1 as long as the county has received a plan for their operation and insurance, when applicable.
  • Utilities fees and service shutoffs are suspended through July 31.
  • Reservations at Laurel Park, Longwood Park and Bee Ridge Park from June 1 through Aug. 9 have been cancelled because of summer camp schedules.

Reservations at Colonial Oaks Park and Woodmere Park from June 1 through Aug.16 are cancelled due to summer camp programs.

  • Outdoor courts, including those for basketball, volleyball and shuffleboard, will reopen May 30.
  • Pavilions, where available and where circumstances are appropriate, will be opened on a first-come, first served basis.

In regard to use of athletic fields and league play, the news release said that such activities may begin again on June 1.

That goes for beach yoga, too, Rissler told Patchen during the Facebook Live interview, emphasizing that applicable insurance details must be provided to staff, as well as reactivation plans.

During the May 20 County Commission meeting, Commissioner Charles Hines laughingly told Rissler that, based on communications he had received, “Some of the most stressed out people in the world are yoga people in Venice,” who want to resume their classes.

Athletic tournaments may resume as of June 14, the news release adds, “pending submission/approval of reactivation plans.”