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Summer season heats up for McHenry County recreation groups

Published: Saturday, May 4, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, May 4, 2013 12:22 p.m. CDT

As summer nears, recreational groups throughout McHenry County have begun unveiling new and enhanced programs for residents itching for ways to take advantage of the warm summer months.

Camps, beach activities, biking and hiking are just a few of the activities available to residents both young and old through groups such as the Crystal Lake Park District and Sage YMCA.

Each year, the groups are challenged to offer fresh programs for the popular summer season while feeling increased pressure to hold fees in check during a down economy.

“Offering the highest quality of programs and keeping fees under control is definitely a challenge and goal for our staff,” said Kim Buscemi, recreation services superintendent for the Crystal Lake Park District.

The district is putting the final touches on its summer brochure, which will be sent May 15 to Crystal Lake-area residents. Once released, residents can start registering for a summer program lineup that features traditional and new activities, Buscemi said.

Visitors at the district’s Main Beach off Lake Shore Drive can expect new themed events, including “Wet and Wild Thursdays,” which features a special activity each week.

Swimmers and beach bums can take a break from the sun and participate in the district’s new arts and crafts program that features a different project at the Main Beach each Tuesday.

The district also has added more fitness classes and introduced a punch pass that allows residents to attend a variety of group exercise classes. The district’s summer day camp for kids of all ages returns in June and features many summer activities.

The new offerings are an attempt to keep the summer program fresh for residents, Buscemi said, but the district also has been challenged to keep its broad programming affordable.

The district has taken an austere approach to spending in recent years that has enabled officials to keep fees, which vary depending on the program, relatively flat since the economic downturn in 2008.

“Over the last several years, our registration has held steady,” Buscemi said. “We are constantly trying to provide the best programs at the most affordable prices.”

Sage YMCA also has kept its summer program fees in check while adding new programs for younger children, senior program director Graham Little said.

Sage YMCA has 13 different options for the summer and already has seen some specialty programs reach capacity. Registration so far has been higher than in years past, Little said.

Elementary and junior high students can try cooking and scuba lessons for the first time, while the group’s popular Camp Sage returns. The daily camp features field trips and outdoor activities such as swimming, sports and arts and crafts.

“It’s important to offer new activities every year to keep things fresh and fun, as many of our campers return year after year,” Little said.

Other groups, such as the McHenry Area Youth Commission, have recently started to restructure certain programs to maximize savings and keep prices affordable for families.

The commission offers a weekly summer camp from June to August for McHenry-area kids that features traditional camp activities and field trips.

Members have recently tried to negotiate field trips at reduced costs and started doing more trips to local destinations, program coordinator Sarah Dodge said. The group has kept its camp registration fee of $125 a week flat for the past three years but has begun to see registration taper off.

“Over the last few years, registration has been lower,” Dodge said. “We have been talking to our parents the last few years. Some have been laid off, or they just can’t afford it.”

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