Rec board discusses summer camp scarcity

LAURINBURG — As local schools prepare to end the academic year, on Tuesday the Scotland County Parks and Recreation advisory board discussed the dearth of children’s summer programs in its parks.

According to Parks and Rec director Shannon Newton, former “summer in the park” programs had strong attendance at free summer camps, but interest waned when fees were implemented.

“When I first started, we did it for about five or six years and then we had to start charging fees,” she said. “We had probably 50 kids at Market Park.”

Those programs worked well in part because of the proximity of many county parks to areas where children live, which enabled them to walk to and from their homes. Board members also discussed the potential of involving teenagers as volunteers if the summer camps were to be implemented again.

“Is there any way of us seeing if there’s funding? Maybe it’s kind of late for this year,” advisory board member Jan Schmidt said, surmising that federal funds may be available. “It would give teens jobs, and it would also keep young and older kids off the street.”

Also on Tuesday, the board reviewed a revised fee schedule for rental of parks and recreation facilities, which includes a new multiple-use discount rate for the gymnasiums at the Laurel Hill Community Center and Wagram Recreation Center.

The rate to rent those gyms is $30 for the first six hours and $15 for the next six. The discounted rate can continue to apply in 12-hour cycles for frequent fliers.

The board approved an official name — Morgan Meadows — for the grassy area in front of the splash pad at the James L. Morgan Recreation Complex. According to Newton, that area is becoming more frequently used. The board also discussed establishing a sliding fee scale which would distinguish between private parties and nonprofit fundraisers.

“What would happen if you just up the deposit for the private groups?” said board member Page Pratt. “That way hopefully the fees end up coming out the same, but you’ve got a little more protection on a private group versus a fundraiser where you’re fairly sure that the nonprofit’s going to clean up after themselves.”

However, it ultimately decided on a fee of $45 per day, along with a $45 refundable cleaning deposit and $15 for electricity for all parties.

Newton also reported on the use of senior center funding at Laurel Hill Community Center and Wagram Recreation Center in the last year.

“During the winter, Wagram was made a senior center as well as a recreation center, and we get lots of little pots of money. Home and Community Care Block Grants provide funds for, among other things, nutrition sites, ramp building, senior daycare, transportation, in-home health aides. This year, Parks and Rec received $1,800 in grants to organize the Scotland County Senior Games and Silver Arts at the Wagram Recreation Center as well as $6,300 for materials to build 10 home ramps, which were build by volunteers from local churches.

“The purpose is to keep people in their homes,” Newton said. “The federal government says it costs less for them to stay at home than for them to support someone in a rest home.”

With other funds received through the Lumber River Council of Governments to host health education sessions, through the N.C. Department of Insurance for Medicare assistance and education, and local matching funds senior center funds to both centers totaled $29,717.

Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.