Durham Parks and Rec strives to bring young people back as attendance drops significantly since COVID

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DURHAM, NC (WNCN) – Several programs have returned to parks and recreation centers in Durham since the start of the pandemic, but participation is still dropping significantly.

In 2019, 2,682 youth and adolescents aged 5 to 18 were enrolled in programs at Durham parks and recreation centers that year, according to DPR data.

The following year, in 2020, that number dropped to 505 and this year only 447 youth and adolescents participated in their programs.

Looking at the DPR participation of adolescents aged 13 to 18, in 2019, a total of 1,204 people were enrolled in their programs. In 2020 that number dropped to 244 and so far this year 140 teens have participated.

“Shortly after the start of the COVID pandemic, we decided to suspend all of our programming,” said Jason Jones, deputy director of Durham Parks and Recreation.

Now that life has started to return to normal, he said they are now charged with the challenge of bringing young people and adolescents back to the centers.

“A lot of the teens who were making their own decisions when they weren’t able to come found other things to do,” Jones said.

He said some people might be reluctant to return in person as the pandemic is still not over.

Jones also said they lack helpers from recreation services, facility supervisors and lifeguards for their aquatic programs.

Jones said this staff shortage has impacted the programs available to the community.

“This has caused problems with the number of participants who can come,” Jones said.

But Jones said they were doing what they could to fill those positions and let the community know they had programs open again and they were safe.

“Things are disinfected more frequently,” Jones said. “We learned a lot about how to program differently and meet the changing needs of the community. “

For more information on Durham Parks and Recreation programs and activities go to their website.

For more information on how to apply for positions with Durham Parks and Recreation, go to city ​​job site.

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