Summer at the park

A group of five-year-olds play My Little Pony on the cool floor of the Cantine Field Large Pavilion (photo by David Gordon)

For five-year-old Sierra Woolsey, the best thing about the Saugerties Recreation Department’s summer day camp program is “sharing people’s food at lunch time.”

Sierra is one of 198 youngsters enrolled in the program. The summer program has proved a great success, said Superintendent of Parks and Buildings Greg Chorvas. The program is self-sufficient financially and always fills up, he said.

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Camp director Suzanne Dodig-Sussman said the camp offers both play and instruction for children. The full-day program runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; a half-day option covers mornings only.

The camp season runs from July 9 through August 17. For a full-day, Saugerties residents pay $380 per child, max $730 for a family; half-day, $200 per child, max $385/family. Non-residents pay a little more.

The staff includes a number of specialized instructors as well as regular counselors.

The camp is based at Cantine Field. Excursions include the Zoom Flume Water Park in East Durham, North Lake in Haines Falls, and Ho Bowl in Catskill. In addition, members of Art Lab, Puppet People and Lyke’s Martial Arts visit to offer lessons.

The camp also brings children to the nearby Lions Club playground and wading pool.

In a typical group, nature instructor Stephen Sasso, assisted by counselor Kim Irvino, demonstrated how different materials form layers in a stream. For instance, sand will sink to the bottom, while stones form a layer above the sand. The youngsters worked out the reason for this through discussion. The natural filtration also provides clean water that can be tapped. Following the demonstration, Sasso borrowed a guitar from one of the students to play a short tune.

Meanwhile, a spirited game of dodge ball was underway at the tennis court, and another group of kids tossed a ball around under the large pavilion.

The camp employs several other specialists. Sports director Chris Freeburg offers clinics in basketball, softball and soccer. Katie Fischer is the camp’s art instructor.

Sussman has been camp director for about 10 years, and she has turned the camp around, Chorvas said. “She really makes the program shine,” he said. Several years ago, the town decided to charge fees that fully cover the camp’s expenses, Chorvas said. While there was some grumbling from parents when the new fees first went into effect, the public seems pleased with the way the camp is running, and it has been well attended.

The children say they enjoy the camp. The youngest – 5 and 6 year-olds – predictably like the playgrounds, though they had several to choose from.

“I like the Small World playground best,” said six-year-old Noelle Marino, who also named the Lions’ Club pool as a favorite.

Sean Secor, 5, said he likes the “big playground.”

“We go to the park,” said Sierra Woolsey.

Maya Hendrickson, who said she is five and a half, was wearing a colorful bead necklace she made in the arts and crafts group. She said she likes that activity as well as the pool.

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