|Heat Spells Busy Summer for Pittsfield Parks|
|By Joe Durwin, Pittsfield Correspondent|
07:27PM / Wednesday, July 18, 2012
|Getting some ball playing in at Clapp Park in Pittsfield. The city's seen an uptick in its park program participation this year.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — This season's high temperatures and sparse rainfall has contributed to high attendance so far at events and programs throughout the city's parks, says Parks & Recreations Activities Coordinator Rebecca Tefft.
||Ongoing renovations at the Common means the annual playground program is running at Deming, Pitt and Clapp parks. Above, a youngster gets some support on the bars at Clapp Park. The free summer movie series is also held at Clapp.
In a report to the Parks Commission on Tuesday, Tefft described increased attendance at a variety of activities over the first few weeks of summer. In particular, "Sticks for Kids," a golf instructional program now in its third summer, saw an increase over last year, with 134 youths participating. "Sticks for Kids" was introduced in 2010 after the Parks and Recreation Program received a grant for 10 sets of junior golf clubs for this program; Pittsfield was one of 100 communities in the country selected to receive this grant. In 2012, the Parks and Recreation Program received a grant for two additional sets of junior golf clubs.
The first of the season's series of free movies in the park drew a crowd of more than 100 to Clapp Park last week for "Kung Fu Panda 2." Upcoming weekly showings include "Rango," "Ghostbusters," "Cars" and "Cars 2."
The city's Summer Parks Playground Program also got off to an active start last week. Tefft reported 30 participants at Clapp Park, 30 at Deming, and around 20 at Pitt Park in the first week of the program, which offers a "drop-in" hub of supervised athletics and activities. In previous years, the playground program was run at four Pittsfield parks, but was cut to three in 2011 because of renovations at the Common. Despite completion of the initial phases of the Common redesign this spring, the seven-week playground program remains confined to Deming, Pitt and Clapp this year.
Tefft said it has also been "very busy" at Burbank Park, where lifeguards have been on duty since July 4 and will be looking out for swimmers there until Aug. 19.
While the weather may be driving high attendance at park events and programs, it may also be a contributing factor to a perceived increase in incidents at local outdoor events this year, suggested Parks Commission Chairman Dr. John Herman.
This observation came in response to concerns voiced by Ryan Gregory, organizer of the Jahda Martin Classic. While applying for the permit Tuesday for this annual local basketball tournament, Gregory asked the Parks Commission if it could recommend some increased police patrols of the area at the Aug. 4 event at Dorothy Amos Park.
"It seems like every time there's a community event lately, some type of altercation breaks out," said Gregory, and while there had been no issues in this event's previous two years, "Something about this year just seems to be different."
"It may be the heat," said Herman, who said any concerns or requests for police presence should go through the Pittsfield Police Department.
The swing sets at Pitt Park were deserted late Wednesday afternoon, but officials say about 30 kids have been participating in the morning and early afternoon program there.
Pittsfield has seen several disturbances following large outdoor events in recent months. In May, police made several arrests in attempting to disperse crowds of onlookers from Melville Street in the aftermath of a fight between two youths following the conclusion of the year's first 3rd Thursday street fair. Following the July 4 parade, Pittsfield Police arrested three in what they described as a "chaotic" knife fight that similarly drew a sizable group of onlookers. Another near brush with crowd melee came at Onota Lake last week, when rapid response by a force of officers dispersed a growing disturbance just after the first of its popular Live on the Lake concert series.
Bill Whittaker of The Garden skate and bike store reported high turnouts were also seen at the very first organized events held at the new Pittsfield Skate Park in June. The events were considered so successful that Whittaker returned to the Parks Commission for permits to hold two more next month, a "Summer Jam" competition Aug. 4, and a second edition of its multi-day skate camp Aug. 6-9.
"The kids learned a lot, and that's what it's all about," Whittaker told iBerkshires, of the June skate camp.
A co-sponsored program last month between the city and The Garden to promote helmet use was also considered successful, according to the skate shop owner.
"We sold more helmets that week than we ever had before," Whittaker told the Parks Commission.
A full schedule of park events through the rest of the summer, both city and privately organized, is available on the city of Pittsfield calendar.