By Michael Mills - Program & Project Coordinator of the Public Communications Group of Broward County Parks and Recreation
The After-School and Summer Recreation programs at neighborhood parks have been mainstays of Broward County Parks and Recreation for more than three decades. The free programs were developed with the objective of providing supervised recreation in safe settings. The idea has always been to enrich the lives of school-age children physically, socially, culturally, and mentally.
Initially, the programs were offered at 16 parks in unincorporated areas of the county, a number that has dropped to six as land was annexed by cities and parks were turned over to their respective municipalities. The remaining six parks – Boulevard Gardens Community Center, Franklin Park, Lafayette Hart Park, Reverend Samuel Delevoe Park, Roosevelt Gardens Park, and Sunview Park – are in what is now known as the Broward Municipal Services District, a nearly 11.5-square-mile area of unincorporated central Broward for which the Broward County Board of County Commissioners provides parks, libraries, and other services.
Both programs are offered daily from Monday through Friday. Hours for the After-School Program vary, running from 2 to 6 p.m. on regular school days, from noon to 6 p.m. on early-release days, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on teacher-planning days and some designated holidays. The Summer Recreation Program runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Both programs offer early dropoff and late pickup options to accommodate the variable schedules of busy parents/guardians.
The After-School Program is structured to coincide with the schedule of Broward County Public Schools, which runs from late August through early June. The Summer Recreation Program picks up a week later and runs for eight weeks, with another one-week break before the After-School Program picks up again for the next school year.
The programs have traditionally targeted ages 6 to 17, although over the years individual parks have tailored their programs to fit their neighborhoods’ needs. Boulevard Gardens now serves ages 6 to 10, and Sunview focuses on ages 13 to 17.
Day-to-day activities vary by site and may include arts and crafts, cultural programs, fishing clinics, fitness and sports, game-room activities, guest speakers, nutrition and safety programs, and water-safety instruction through Parks and Recreation’s SWIM Central, the county’s primary resource and referral service for available swim programs. Optional field trips that entail nominal fees are also offered to such sites as bounce house centers, bowling centers, movie theaters, and Parks and Recreation’s four water parks, which are open during the summer.
Special events have also played an increasingly larger, integral role in the programs to broaden the children’s experiences. The After-School Program celebrates such national observations as Hispanic Heritage Month, Martin Luther King Day, and Black History Month. Since 2015, Parks and Recreation has collaborated with the county’s Cultural and Libraries divisions on a spring Arts Exhibit & Talent Showcase.
The best-known special event in the Summer Recreation Program is the Broward Star Time Talent Show. The event, now in its 27th year, features soloists and groups performing in such categories as vocals, dance, instrumentals, stepping, baton, and spoken word.
From the beginning, the Summer Recreation Program has included free meal service for participants. This component was made possible by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service, which created the Summer Food Service Program in 1968. Free lunches and snacks help ensure that children receive adequate nutrition during the long summer break from school, thus continuing their physical and social development so that they can return to school ready to learn.
Parks participating in both the After-School and Summer Recreation programs are as follows:
• Boulevard Gardens Community Center: 313 N.W. 28th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33311 – 954-357-6867
• Franklin Park, 2501 Franklin: Dr. Fort Lauderdale, FL 33311 – 954-357-7080
• Lafayette Hart Park: 2851 N.W. Eighth Rd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33311 – 954-357-7970
• Reverend Samuel Delevoe Park: 2520 N.W. Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33311 – 954-357-8801
• Roosevelt Gardens Park: 2841 N.W. 11th St., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33311 – 954-357-8700
• Sunview Park: 1500 S.W. 42nd Ave., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33317 – 954-357-6520
Broward County Parks and Recreation manages approximately 6,500 acres, encompassing nearly 50 regional parks and nature centers, neighborhood parks, and natural areas at various stages of development. Facilities include water parks, campgrounds, a target range, a stadium, a skate park, an observatory, mountain bike trails, an educational farm with stables, and a velodrome and other sports facilities.