Scarborough Community Services and the Easter Bunny, who couldn’t make an appearance on the holiday this year, handed out kits and packages for families who participated in a statewide backyard camping event on July 10-11. Dozens of Scarborough residents showed interest in the event, and the town hopes to make it an annual affair, said Nicole Hall, administrative coordinator. Catherine Bart/Leader

SCARBOROUGH — In a time where people can’t travel or get together for annual summer events, families are exploring their own backyards, local trails, beaches, and parks.

July is National Parks & Recreations Month, and with the help of the National Recreation & Park Association, Scarborough Community Services is celebrating all month long through various fitness and wellness events, Nicole Hall, administrative coordinator, said.

One of the month’s biggest events was a statewide backyard camp-out that took place July 10-11, Hall said. The Maine Recreation & Park Association brought the idea to Scarborough, and residents were thrilled.

On July 10, Scarborough Community Services provided families with camping kits and packages, including activities, charts, and extra materials the department had handy for annual summer camps, Hall said.

“We did kind of set up a sign-up where a certain amount of families could get a package we put together,” she said. “We initially said the first 36 get it and we didn’t think we’d get that many, but now we’re at 88 families who have signed up and will be getting those campfire packages. We’re super excited about the amount of people.”

Scarborough Community Services handing out camping kits on July 10. Catherine Bart/Leader

Thirty-two Maine communities participated in the event, said Lisa Thompson, an MRPA board member, who brought the idea for the event forward.

“We really just wanted to offer something for everyone to do something safe, be socially distant, and have something to look forward to,” she said. “Everything’s been canceled and we’re trying to provide an opportunity to create and some memories this summer.”

MRPA normally offers a discount ticket program, but the Covid-19 pandemic made that impossible this year, Thompson said.

The camping event, with hundreds of families from northern to southern Maine participating, received an overwhelming and enthusiastic response, she said.

“It’s been really nice to see people get excited about something,” Thompson said. “There’s been a lot of stuff we couldn’t do.”

Not everyone has a backyard, but Hall said that didn’t matter.

“I want to stress that backyard camping can happen in any form,” she said. “You might not have a tent or a backyard — that’s OK. You can do something indoors. It’s more on the spirit that can generate fun.”

Although planning for summer fun has been challenging this year, Thompson said that MRPA is getting the hang of it.

“Meeting virtually accomplishes a lot,” she said. “We’ve had a Zoom meeting every week since June. It’s really nice to see people enjoy the outdoors more, the parks and the trails in their town. That’s been something we’ve noticed that’s been nice to see — everyone enjoying their own backyards.”

For Scarborough, Yoga and Zumba classes have been taking place in Memorial Park, hosted with the help of Martin’s Point, Hall said. Classes began on July 6, and reservations are available for the rest of the month through the Town of Scarborough’s Facebook page.

Scarborough Community Services and Martin’s Point are offering free Zumba classes in Memorial Park. Courtesy photo of Nicole Hall

Residents interested in taking a free Zumba or yoga class at Memorial Park can check out facebook.com/scarboroughmaine for more details on registering. Courtesy photo of Nicole Hall

The classes so far have been well-received, she said. Many who signed up regularly participated in yoga, Zumba, etc. classes before the pandemic began and missed seeing friends at weekly or monthly lessons.

“So many people are so appreciative to just get out of the home,” Hall said. “For a lot of the people we’ve seen so far, they can have a chance to come back to that ‘family.’ A lot have not seen their friends they do usual classes with. The fact that it’s in the park is fantastic. You get fresh air and the sun shining. It adds to the classes and gives attention to park-goers. We’re able to tell them what we have coming up.”

Courtesy photo of Town of Scarborough

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