Cumberland/North Yarmouth youth summer programming is still on this year, despite the pandemic forcing many offerings having to be cut. Contributed

CUMBERLAND — The day-by-day shifting scenarios caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the resultant state restrictions on social gatherings have made planning this summer’s programming one of the greatest challenges of Pete Bingham’s career.

The virus “had no time frame or rules,” said the director of the Cumberland/North Yarmouth Community Recreation Department.

Bingham said he and his staff have worked hard to offer the June-August activities that are likely only able to draw half the number of children and bring in roughly half the revenue. But there will still be offerings like the day camp, “which is crucial for working parents who have been unable to return due to lack of care,” Bingham said. “It’s quality daycare for local families.”

State guidelines that limit gatherings to no more than 50 participants and staff were a major part of Bingham’s process for evaluating the scope of programming, he said. The three summer camp sites are each capped at 42 participants – 126 altogether – down from about 200-210 children per week.

Bingham expects the camps to bring in $120,000 if they run close to capacity, compared to $210,000 last year. All programming, the camps included, has brought in about $270,000, of which $120,000-$150,000 could be lost this year.

“At this time the only way our enrollment caps would rise would be an easing of restrictions from the governor’s office,” which Bingham doesn’t anticipate happening, he said. “We may revisit this should rules change for August or earlier, especially if demand far exceeds capacity.”

Looking into what it could and could not offer, Bingham said, “we can’t run a six-hour soccer camp; kids can’t dribble through cones for six hours. But we’re able to offer an hour soccer clinic, where they’ll practice social distancing but be able to work on conditioning, footwork and those kinds of things.”

There will be “significant social distancing expectations,” Bingham said. “We’re going back to basics; how summer playground programs and day camps used to be. We’re not going to Funtown, we’re not going to Water Country. We’re going on nature walks, we’re going (more locally) to Broad Cove Reserve, we’re going to Twin Brook, we’re going to Knight’s Pond.”

“Who would want their kid going to an amusement park this year, even if it was open?,” Bingham said. Groups must be kept small, and on field trips children must sit one per seat with an empty seat between them, he said.

There won’t be any Ranger soccer or basketball camps this year, nor the British Challenger Soccer Camp or enrichment cooking classes. But referring to the offerings in the 2020 summer brochure, such as “Hip Hop” and “Princess” dance camps, summer track, various soccer clinics and junior golf, Bingham said, “it’s a minor miracle that we pulled off what we did.”

In a recent letter to the community at the start of that brochure, Bingham assured that “all measures and precautions will be taken to ensure the safety of the participants and staff,” which include “additional disinfecting/cleaning protocols, increased child to staff ratios as well as body temperature checks where applicable.”

That provides some peace of mind for John Carthy, a North Yarmouth resident and soccer coach who in recent years has sent his two children to aftercare, along with golf, soccer and dance programs. He planned to enroll them in summer programming once registration opened Wednesday.

“Obviously there were some concerns,” Carthy said, “but knowing the rec department … I know Pete would never do anything that would put anybody in danger, so I 100% trust the town.”

He said that it’s “nice that there is something for the kids to do, because it sort of seems as if we’re going to slowly get back,” he said. “It’ll never be normal again, but it’s in that right direction.”

The brochure is posted at cumberlandmaine.com/recreation. Registration can be done online or via appointment at Town Hall, 290 Tuttle Road. Call 829-2208 or email [email protected] for more information.

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