Summer camp woes worsen as Denver Parks & Rec cuts Summer in the Parks

The city says that they’re reconfiguring summer activities, but it’s unclear what shape the new activities will take.

River (7) has already mastered the new City Park playground's monkey bars. Oct. 26, 2021.

River (7) has already mastered the new City Park playground's monkey bars. Oct. 26, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Kyle Harris.

Denver’s working parents have a tough time figuring out what to do with their kids in the summer. And many families are worried this year could be extra rough.

Last week, Denver Parks and Recreation announced it has canceled its summer camp, Summer in the Parks, leaving working parents scrambling.

On Friday, Mayor Mike Johnston announced cuts to both the Department of Motor Vehicles and Parks and Recreation to make up for a budget shortfall and to help fund city support for new immigrants, many of whom are facing homelessness and are not allowed to work.

But the new immigrant response is not why Summer in the Parks has been axed, according to the city

“The shift in summer program offerings would have happened regardless of today’s budget announcement,” explained Yolanda Quesada, a spokesperson for Parks and Recreation, on Friday.

Here’s how Parks and Recreation explained the decision to parents:

“The Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) program Summer in the Parks will not be offered this summer,” said Quesada. “We are restructuring summer offerings and will supplement programs at various recreation centers throughout the summer to allow us to reach more youth.”

Some parents who were planning on sending their kids to Summer in the Parks and who missed the deadline for other camps are feeling uncertain about what to do next or how they will afford it.

“Denver has a huge problem with summer camps,” said Denver parent Katie Harper

Spots in the more affordable programs, like those at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts or Denver Museum of Nature and Science, are highly coveted. Parents get in line the morning camps open up, and often get stuck on waiting lists with as many as 1,000 kids.

Private camps can cost upwards of $600. Parents with multiple children can spend thousands keeping their kids occupied over the summer.

But Summer in the Park has been a welcome deviation from high prices and competitive spots.

“It is the most affordable local camp in all of the Denver area,” said Harper. “It’s close to where I live. It’s also a great camp.”

Harper is planning to send her kids to the slightly pricier YMCA Metro Denver summer camps.

“We are a dual-income working family and need care for our kids and even we struggle to afford [what] can be upwards of $4,000 per month,” she said.

So what is Parks and Recreation’s big plan for the summer?

“Summer activities are being reconfigured to have a greater reach and increase services for youth who visit our centers across the system,” Quesada said.

What that looks like is uncertain.

“Summer activities are not yet determined,” Quesada continued. “Recreation staff is currently working to develop plans for summer activities.”

A few things are known.

“Daytime center hours during the summer are being prioritized to ensure that there are options for youth and families systemwide,” she wrote. “Recreation centers and MY Denver programs are free for all youth who have a MY Denver Card.”

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