By Rebecca J. Garcia, Watsonville Mayor
All my grandchildren learned to swim through the Watsonville summer aquatics program. They went underwater, they floated, they played and they swam. So much fun. However, there will be no summer aquatics program this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. All in-person, youth, senior, sports and aquatics programs will be closed for now. We have also canceled all city-sponsored events. Parks and Rec has had to make some difficult decisions and closed on March 13, yet they had to be creative and think out of the box to keep the community healthy and connected.
We do encourage you to use our parks, open spaces and slough trails. You can walk, jog or ride a bike there. We only ask that you follow safe social distancing guidelines. Masks are recommended, but not required. If the area is too crowded, consider visiting at a different time or visiting another location. Please note that because of reduced staffing, park amenities are not always being cleaned or sanitized daily. Please bring your own materials for cleaning. Our playground areas remain closed, however the popular Skate Park has reopened with social distancing requirements. You can click here to view the current status of our parks.
The Virtual Recreation Center has been created. This site provides many fun activities for youth and adults. There is a calendar where daily you can find things such as craft activities, Yoga, Wellness links (mindfulness, flexibility, relaxation), card games, paper football, soccer drills, and even recipes. After you bake/cook your recipe you can take a photo and place it on Facebook or Instagram. Starting this month in June we will be offering a weekly schedule of virtual classes for seniors. Watsonville Parks and Rec was one of the first agencies to develop a Virtual Recreation Center. The model has since been duplicated by countless cities across the state and country and has received national recognition.
Youth Programs are being planned for the summer. The main one is a Summer Camp. We have partnered with Santa Cruz County Parks and we will be offering a nine-week summer camp (June 8-Aug. 7) for ages 5-12 and 13-18. We have consulted with the Santa Cruz County Health Officer and are following CDC guidelines. The program will serve 96 Watsonville youth who will participate in stable groups of up to 12. Each group will be offered theme activities which include Jr. Park Rangers, Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) activities, and aquatics. The aquatics programming will feature: swim instruction, water play, and pool Jr. Guard. The cost will be $900 per participant for nine weeks with sibling discounts. There will also be a discounted registration fee of $100 per participant for families that are eligible for Medi-Cal, WIC or CalFresh. We want to make the program affordable and accessible to all families in the Pajaro Valley. This is a high cost nine-week program so we are accepting donations to help fund this effort. You can send a check to the Parks and Community Services Department (care of Summer Camp 2020), 231 Union St. Watsonville, CA. 95076.
Watsonville offers many activities to bring the community together. Unfortunately, they all have had to be canceled through the end of 2020. They include:
- Wine, Beer, and Art Walk
- Car Show at Airport
- Fire in the Sky and 4th of July Parade
- Strawberry Festival
- Music in the Plaza Summer Series
- Summer Movie Nights
- National Night Out
- Holiday in the Plaza
Before this date we also canceled the Cesar Chavez Celebration, Muzzio Playground Reopening and the Easter egg hunt. As we move forward in reopening perhaps some of these activities can be reinstated.
Parks and Recreation builds strong and connected communities. Both health and economic benefits are provided. We have begun to plan for a reopening that will include policies and procedures that need to be in place to open safely. However, we do not have a definite timeline for when we will be able to reopen all programs and facilities. We are waiting for the Governor’s direction on when we can reopen adult and youth sports. Until then stay active, stay connected and stay informed. Be safe and take care.
Mayor’s Update is a recurring column from Watsonville’s Mayor, Rebecca Garcia. Her opinions are her own and not necessarily those of the Pajaronian. Contact Garcia at [email protected]