Rockford Park District focuses attention on enhancing neighborhood parks, youth programs

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ROCKFORD (WREX) – Once upon a time the Rockford Park District says its neighborhood summer programs for kids were booming. But that’s not the case anymore.

“Back in 1991 we had 31 neighborhood parks that had free summer neighborhood programs going,” says Rockford Park District Executive Director Jay Sandine. “Now we have only ten sites. Of these ten sites they are jam packed with kids.”

One of those sites is Wantz Park.

“We are maxed out so were are turning away kids right now,” says Sandine.

For those who have to deal with it everyday, it’s a reality that’s tough to swallow.

“It’s hard for us to turn them away because we love what we do and so it’s hard for us to do that but we’re bursting at the seams,” saus Rockford Park District Time to Play Coordinator Kate Genoways.

The park district says these programs were cut and scaled back over the years. In the early 1990s, over one million dollars was allocated for them. Today just over $330,000 is set aside. Even with tough budget discussions on the horizon, the distrcit wants to keep this funding at the top of its list.

“We need to find a way to get revenue to restore some of those sites,” says Sandine. “It’s a quality of life thing. If we don’t have swimming pools and programs for kids. We can expect youth crime to continue to rise.”

“A lot of these kids have hard home situations they have people that aren’t there that are busy,” says Genoways. “We have families trying to work through tough difficulties so the fact the kids get to be here and not at home wathcing that is really huge for us.”

Najlia Denwiddie has been coming to the camp since second grade. The soon to be sixth grader says without it, she’d be stuck sitting on the couch at home.

“I like it, it’s really fun. Everyone here is pretty sweet. We all have our differences but at the end of the day we just put them all aside and it’s like one big family pretty much.”

While the camp at Wantz park is at capacity and not taking any new campers, there are nine other sites still accepting children. For more information click here.

Mary Sugden

Mary Sugden

Investigative Reporter

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