It was well before this week’s Thanksgiving school break when parents started calling the Town of Orchard Park’s Recreation Department to ask about next summer’s day camp program.
“We have probably handled, already, at least a dozen calls inquiring when they can register for next summer,” Recreation Director Ed Leak said in an interview earlier this month. “We actually don’t open registration until Feb. 1.”
Such is the demand for summer child care, in the form of day camp. Several municipalities offer it, supplementing programs offered by private and religious organizations.
Orchard Park and Hamburg have day camp programs going back decades.
Hamburg’s Camp Friendship, which operates at the former Nike Base, “was started as an option for parents who need their children to have a supervised environment while they were at work,” said Marty Denecke, Hamburg’s recreation director. “It’s not day care, but it’s certainly a place where there’s supervision ... an active, healthy environment.”
Those two communities were cited when West Seneca Recreation Director Craig D. Kroll recently pitched a summer day camp program for the town. He’s hoping to have it up and running by June 2014.
“It’s in demand,” Kroll said this week. “Obviously, parents work during the day. They want a full day of child care.”
“Our town’s been needing it for many years,” Kroll said.
Kroll presented his proposal at a Town Board work session in late October. This week, he said he’s working on finalizing its safety plan, so that it can go before lawmakers for a vote.
Starting out, West Seneca’s camp would be for children in grades three through eight; it later would extend to youngsters in kindergarten through second grade. Kroll has proposed a limit of 96 campers per week for the first year.
It would run in one-week segments from June 30 to Aug. 15, with a starting price of $100 per week suggested by Kroll. By comparison, Orchard Park most recently charged $75 to $165 a week; Hamburg charged $120 for Camp Friendship and $170 for Woodlawn Adventure Camp, which is run at Woodlawn Beach State Park.
Both municipalities also welcome youngsters who aren’t town residents, at a higher charge.
In West Seneca, camp would run 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, but parents would have the option of earlier drop-off and later pickup for an additional $10 per week.
Various town facilities would be utilized, with the ice rink providing backup during inclement weather. Two swimming sessions and two field trips per week also are planned.
“Field trips really attract kids to participate,” Kroll told lawmakers.
Even with the weekly charge, Kroll cautioned that the program would operate in the red; the estimated loss is $24,000 for the first year. “Camps do not make money,” he said.
Orchard Park’s recreation director agrees. “You typically will run a loss for a while until you can add to the program,” said Leak, who noted that this is the first year his department’s overall revenues have surpassed expenses.
The West Seneca proposal was favorably received by Town Board members, who asked questions about providing and training staff, among other things.
“I think this is an opportunity to really add a program that does give service to working families,” said Councilman Eugene P. Hart Jr.
But a resident who heard the work session presentation spoke out against it during the board’s meeting that night.
“Do we really need this? I think this should be up to a referendum,” said Johanna Guenther of Neubauer Court. “Let’s concentrate on town business and leave camp business to private enterprises.”