Columbus parks get buzzing with summer activities

Spring has barely popped its head up in central Ohio, but it’s not too early to start planning for summer activities through the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department.

Officials outlined the full schedule of offerings for children and adults during a March 27 meeting with City Councilwoman Priscilla Tyson, chair of the recreation and parks committee.

Six recreation centers, including Westgate on the westside, open to ages 6-12, offer camps with sports and other activities, with a different theme each week.

Specialty camps focus on cheerleading, tennis, football, hockey, track and field and basketball. Challenger British Soccer Camp is available for ages 3-14 to learn about the sport from coaches from the British Isles.

Curious Tykes is offered at three sites for ages 3 1/2 to 5, and Extraordinary Teen Camp is open to ages 12-16 at Schiller Recreation Center in German Village.

Mail-in registration for camps begins April 7. The camp hotline is 645-7000.

All camps have fees but "we offer the best camps for the money," Recreation and Parks Director Alan McKnight said.

The School’s Out program, for ages 6-12 and 13-14, operating at seven sites from 7 a.m.-6 p.m., is available by lottery for families who meet income guidelines. Cost is $25 per child.

Registration will take place April 22-25. Applications must be dropped off at the Thompson Recreation Center on Dennison Avenue.

P.L.A.Y grants are available to low-income families for any recreation program that charges a fee. Applications are available at all recreation centers. These grants do not apply to the School’s Out program. Call 645-3325 for information.

The traveling playground program will offer free "Four-Day Art and Play" events at seven playgrounds, for ages 6 and older. The programs will be open from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and breakfast and lunch will be provided.

The city’s community centers will be open during the summer for youth from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, and later for adult sports and fitness programs.

Children with disabilities are not left out, explained Mary Beth Moore about the "Summer of Fun" therapeutic camps at the Dodge Recreation Center and Franklin Park.

These camps are open to ages 6 through 21 who are still enrolled in school. While most participants have special needs, their friends and siblings can also attend, Moore said.

The campers get to swim every day, take part in sports, participate in community service projects, and will have an overnight camp-out with tents and a camp fire.

The Franklin camp can accommodate up to 40 participants, and Dodge will take up to 30. Moore said the program maintains a four to one camper-to-staff ratio.

Seven of the city’s 10 pools will be open during the summer (Fairway, Glenwood and the indoor aquatic center will be closed) and all will offer free admission. A "leisure card" will be required for entry. Hours will be 1:30-6:30 p.m.

With pool season comes the need for lifeguards, and the department is offering free certification classes for ages 15 and up, from April through June. Those interested can call 645-6122.

Free swimming lessons will be offered at all pools for ages 3 to adult.

The Barnett sprayground, with water jets and other wet fun on a zero-depth  surface, will be open for its second season in May, with hours from noon-7:30 p.m., seven days a week.

Performing and visual arts

If you’d rather take the stage than chase a softball, the Davis Performing Arts Program is offering eight weeks of theatre camps at the center on Franklin Street for ages 6-8, 9-15, and preschoolers, ages 3-5, according to the program’s director, Jeff Martin. Themes will include everything from Shakespeare to comedy to musicals.

New this year is a musical theatre camp for ages 13-18, during which the teens will create and perform their own original show.

Junior thespians ages 8-12 can audition May 20-21 for "Isabella e la Bestia," a Comedia del Arte version of "Beauty and the Beast."

Teens ages 13-18 can audition May 13-14 for a role in Thornton Wilder’s "The Skin of Our Teeth."

A city-wide talent is also being mounted, with auditions at local recreation centers.

Information on these programs is available at 645-SHOW.

Visual artists will not be left out, with the Great Art Get-Away for ages 6-12, held at Smith Farms.

The city will be sponsoring professional performances through the Rhythm on the River series at Genoa Park, the Short North Sunday Jazz concerts at Goodale Park, Festival Latino at Genoa Park, June 20-21, the Jazz & Rib Fest at Bicentennial Park and Genoa Park, and the Topiary Park Garden Concerts Tuesdays from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., July 8 through August 26.

Older residents will not be left out, through the 50-Plus sports and recreation programs, including outdoor water aerobics and the Senior Olympics.

Gram and Gramp Camp will be offered June 9-13 at Indian Village, where grandparents can attend with their grandchildren ages 8 to 14.

Information on all programs is available at

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