For some kids, summer means going out of town, leaving Kingston behind and experiencing adventures with friends and family in other parts of the country and beyond. But for those sticking close to home, the appeal is apparent: There’s a lot to do in Kingston in the summertime.
Kevin Gilfeather, superintendent of the city parks and recreation department, is a firm believer in keeping it local during the summer months. “There’s a lot of opportunities for kids to take advantage of various programs within the city,” Gilfeather said.
City-sponsored programs are scattered throughout Kingston’s beaches and pools, neighborhood parks and recreation centers. At the heart of these is Kingston’s summer camp, a six-week program that gives kids aged six to 13 a structured environment in which to have a lot of fun. And unless they’re careful, they may even learn something. Summer camp began this week and runs through mid-August.
“Kids play structured activities, including sports,” said Gilfeather. “There’s arts and crafts, board games, and one day a week they’ll go to the [Andretta] pool.”
The summer camp also includes an opportunity for special events and field trips, with ice-cream making, tie-dying, a mad science show and a day at Wood N Wheel in the works.
Around 225 kids are enrolled in the summer camp, which takes place at Hasbrouck, Hutton, Loughran and Forsyth parks.
Gabby Ashdown, a ten-year old heading into the fifth grade at Edson Elementary, goes to the program at Forsyth. What does she enjoy the most? That proved a bit difficult to pin down. “The kids, they’re really nice,” she said. “I like Kinderland and stuff, the swings.”
Kahlil Worthington, an eleven-year-old who will be at Bailey in the sixth grade this fall, was also happy with more than just one element of camp.
“I like the little kids,” he said. “They’re so funny. They always want to play dodge ball with the bigger kids. I like dodge ball, just hanging out and playing taps under the pavilion.”
Worthington has more than one reason for looking forward to the trip to Wood N Wheel. “I like the skating,” he said. “And the video games and laser tag.”
There are also options for kids who might enjoy something with a bit more focus. There are swim lessons at Andretta Pool, competitive bicycle experiences at Kingston Point BMX Park, and a six-week summer tennis program at Loughran, Hutton and Forsyth parks, which culminates for some kids with participation in the annual Tony Bell memorial program over ten days in August.
Kingston’s junior naturalist program gives kids an opportunity to explore the mysteries of the world right outside their own window. “It’s based out of the Forsyth Nature Center, and kids will have an opportunity in some of the programs to go down and see what goes in the wetlands at Kingston Point, go kayaking and probably do some fishing down there to get a nature-based type of experience as well,” explained Gilfeather.
The junior naturalist program features different sessions of varying lengths depending on a child’s grade level. It’s already under way for some of the city’s youngest kids.
Steve Noble, an environmental educator with the city’s parks and recreation department, is a big fan of spending time in the great outdoors in Kingston. “Summer in Kingston is definitely cool for kids, and one of the coolest things is being able to get outdoors and experience nature in your backyard,” he said. “To a kid, that means playing in the mud, hunting for frogs, identifying a butterfly, learning to kayak, and spending some quality time with some of our nature center’s proud ambassadors.”
Noble is a fan of Kingston places. “Two of my favorite places are Kingston Point Beach and Park, and the Forsyth Nature Center, of course,” he said. “Kingston Point allows kids to experience the Hudson River, a river that is cool no matter what age you are. You can swim for free on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays with lifeguards overseeing your safety.”
Kayaking is also a good way to experience nature in Kingston, Noble added. “Kids can come with their parents Saturday morning or evening for a kayak tour with the Forsyth Nature Center where kids can let their parents do all of the paddling why they look for eagles, turtles and splash in the water,” he said. It’s fun to explore out of the water, too. “Kingston Point Park hosts a variety of trails featuring beaver chews, snapping turtles, a little poison ivy, but lots of pretty cool sights and sounds, all within a short drive, walk or public transport.”
The Forsyth Nature Center’s animal exhibits provides local kids a chance to see something they might not ordinarily see in their backyards. “And the best thing is that it’s free,” Noble said. “A visit allows kids to pet a goat, meet a pig, have a conversation with a chicken, watch fish swim in the native pond and watch Raina the redtail hawk fly around.”
It’s all a matter of stepping away from video games and stepping into the sunshine. It’s impossible to cover all the different things kids can spend their time enjoying in Kingston over the summer, primarily because there’s so much to do.