EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 9, 2013

Extreme heat, rain has camp directors scrambling

Summer recreation programs adapt to changes in weather

By Alex Lippa

---- — A wild stretch of weather has caused some scheduling problems for many recreation programs this summer.

With heavy rain one day and scorching heat the next, it’s been difficult for recreation directors to plan their programs.

“It’s stressful,” Windham recreation director Cheryl Haas said. “Everything is so unpredictable. It will rain in one part of town, but not others.”

As a result, some programs are reporting limited attendance.

“People are hesitant to sign up for things,” Haas said. “On some days it’s just too hot to be outside, people would rather be at the movies instead.”

Haas said the town beach at Cobbetts Pond was surprisingly quiet during the recent heat wave, although she attributed some of that to the Fourth of July.

In Atkinson, recreation director Noriko Yoshida-Travers had to be patient when the first week of the town’s Sun ‘N Fun program did not go according to plan.

“Right away, we had to use Atkinson Academy from Monday to Wednesday because of the rain,” she said of last week’s activities. “It was challenging for sure.”

The program had to end early yesterday because of a sudden rain storm.

Sandown recreation director Deb Brown said the weather is impossible to control, but they have adopted a motto for their summer day camp program.

“We call ourselves the camp of flexibility,” Brown said. “Nothing stops us.”

When extreme weather occurs, directors and counselors need to be quick on their feet.

“We have a creative staff,” Brown said. “We’ll do activities out in the rain if it’s not too bad. We always have a bag of tricks to rely on.”

Yoshida-Travers said on hot days, kids are asked to bring bathing suits and water guns so they can do some wet activities.

Salem recreation director Christopher Dillon said steps are taken to make sure all campers are prepared for the heat.

“We schedule in additional breaks and make sure they have plenty of water,” he said. “Learning to adapt to weather issues is just part of the job.”

Directors and campers aren’t the only ones affected.

Derry recreation director Eric Bodenrader said all the rain has made it tough to maintain the town’s parks and beaches.

“We’ve been behind the eight ball a little bit,” he said. “We’ve been able to open park facilities, then have to abruptly close. It’s a bit of a headache.”

But Bodenrader said attendance doesn’t suffer in the weather.

“We still had 150 kids each day come for swimming lessons,” he said. “We were able to do things inside when it rained.”

While some towns said the Fourth of July combined with the hot weather slowed down activities, Dillon said the pond at Hedgehog Park was packed.

“I’ve never seen as many people there on any day, than I did on July 4 this year,” he said. “It was the busiest I’ve ever seen.”

Despite all the uncertainty, staying positive is a way to get through the day

“We just have to adapt,” Dillon said. “People know we can’t control the weather. We do the best we can.”