By LESLIE COLLINS
September 18, 2013
Kansas City’s Parks and Recreation Department is continually looking to expand youth programming and now, that task became a little easier.
A portion of youth programming funding originates from parking tickets, and in April the Municipal Court approved increasing the fine schedule. On Sept. 12, the City Council approved allotting an additional $5 from each parking ticket for Parks and Recreation youth programming, which equates to an estimated additional $200,000 annually.
“Our young people certainly need more positive experiences, more places to go, and these funds should allow for those kind of things to happen,” said Mark Bowland, manager of Parks and Recreation Community Services. “Young people will find things to do if things aren’t available, and oftentimes the things they find to do aren’t the most socially acceptable. I think this will have a positive impact on good choices and good places for young people to participate and go.”
Expanding current programming is Parks and Recreation’s No. 1 push, he said. One set of programs Parks and Recreation would like to offer in additional locations includes: Night Hoops (basketball), Night Nets (volleyball) and Night Kicks (soccer). To complement these programs, Parks and Recreation wants to offer pre-clinics for the first time where youth can learn the fundamentals of the sport and also learn life skills like conflict resolution, money management, character development, among others.
“We really want to make sure that these programs make young people better when they leave the program than when they came in, and sports is the hook and the mechanism in which we get them engaged,” Bowland said.
Through the additional funding, Parks and Recreation plans to offer its Recreation Express Program in more Kansas City communities. This past summer, Recreation Express visited five communities, and Parks and Recreation hopes to expand to nine communities this coming year. Activities typically include carnival games, competitive sports, a talent show, music, among others.
For the summer enrichment camps, Parks and Recreation will be able to provide additional staffing for youth ages 7 to 14 and possibly expand the camps to older youth ages 15 to 17, he said.
For the first time, Parks and Recreation is offering a structured after-school program this year called “The Youth Zone” for ages six to 15 years old beginning on Sept. 16. The program is designed to assist with homework, provide physical activities and educate youth about nutrition. The Youth Zone will be offered from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at every community center except Line Creek.
“I just feel good that the city, our mayor and our city manager understand the value of investing in young people, and I think this is not just mere expenditures but investment in the lives and the quality of life for young people and families of young people here in Kansas City,” Bowland said. “It truly is an investment and one that we take very seriously.”