SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ - The Scotch Plains Recreation Commission at its Monday, May 18, meeting on Zoom (and broadcasted on Facebook live unanimously) voted to cancel the Department’s 2020 Summer Camp programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The programs, held at Brookside and Green Forest Parks, had over 300 registered participants for summer 2020.
“When presenting the Commission with a recommendation, the first item I mentioned was that the health and safety of all of our participants and staff are the top priorities and this decision reflects our commitment to those priorities," Parks and Recreation Director DJ Salvante wrote in an email to participants and applying staff. "Timelines, preliminary guidance, and varying levels of uncertainty have driven this decision.”
“I fully understand the disappointment this decision may bring to you and your camper. Some of the most cherished childhood memories are made at summer camp. Please know that we share in that disappointment,” Salvante added.
“Although this decision was not an easy one to make, it was the prudent one. I have to thank the Recreation Department for presenting an honest outlook as well as my fellow Commissioners who held a healthy discussion before our final decision," Recreation Commission Chair Mike Walsh said.
"One of the key things to note that out of our discussion, we’ve asked the Department to come up with alternative programs that could exist within proposed guidelines to provide to our community," Walsh added. "Scaling down group size, time of program, and activity of program should be considered. We’d like to have options of activities available to our community that can be done reasonably within whatever guidelines are set forth.”
"A lot of training would to happen for us to open," Salvante told TAPintoSPF. "For instance, things need to change in protocols: temperature checks, PPE and other requirements. We thought it was too much to ask our younger camp counselors to monitor. With all the things considered, that's what is driving the decision."
Salvante said that the feedback from parents so far has been overwhelmingly positive.
"What we're hearing is that parents are thankful that we are making the health and safety of their kids a priority," Salvante said. "Mostly the feedback is positive."
The recreation director said his departments is exploring alternatives, perhaps eliminating eating, and maybe taking smaller groups of kids.
"We are trying to replicate some sort of program," Salvante said. "Hopefully, by June, we can offer alternative programs to fit within the current social distancing guidelines."
Registered summer camp participants are being offered a refund for the full amount of camp registration or a credit to their account to use for any Recreation Department program. Details on how to obtain the refund were included in the participant communications.
Salvante said that the department is looking into virtual program, small group play, and other creative components.
"We are trying to see what sticks and if the guidelines change as summer approaches," he said.
The Scotch Plains Recreation Commission meets throughout the year. The Commission is a group of Township residents appointed by the Township Manager to oversee and set policy for parks, recreation programs and other activities.