West Fargo Park District faces growing pains with number of incoming kids
West Fargo Park District recreation manager Lance Belisle has seen summer activities in the park district grow exponentially the past few years. And that's great, he says, but that doesn't mean it doesn't come with challenges.
This summer specifically, the park district has over 20 sports, activities and programs available to local youth. That includes an increase of over 100 kids in baseball/T-ball and softball, which means over 1,100 kids are now involved in baseball/T-ball. Well over one hundred kids are in basketball, creative arts which includes art, music, sewing and theater, science/technology programs which include science classes, SMART lab, video game design, drones, cooking and day camps, tennis, track, volleyball and sports samplers, not to mention even more activities and sports available.
"We have a wide range of activities for kids to participate in during the summer months," Belisle said. "Every summer our numbers continue to grow with the growth of the community. All of the new developments mean there are new families and those families are looking for activities for their kids to participate in. It's a big deal to put them in the first program, and we love to provide them those opportunities for those families."
But Belisle says there's also a waiting list in some cases for those activities. With all of the growth in the city, and therefore more families and therefore more kids, Belisle said the park district has had to stretch resources to get more kids into the activities. In some cases, kids have to put be put on waitlists. With more kids, there needs to be more staff and more of a focus on programs that are more popular with kids, Belisle said.
"It's a little discouraging. You want everyone to participate in something, and there's times where we can't get everyone in," Belisle said. "That hurts a little bit."
The main issue, Belisle said, is the lack of space available for things like sports and classes. Rustad Recreation Center is expanding to get more space, he said, which he believes means the park district is being proactive and staying ahead of the growth "so we don't get caught behind the eight ball."
"We're not getting to the point where we're panicking," Belisle said. "The last thing we want to do is turn someone away. When we have a waitlist, nine out of 10 times we make solutions so we don't have to turn anyone away."
Belisle feels the park district usually can make room for kids in some activity one way or another. The park district has about 250 part-timers working seasonally, many of them are high school or college students working their first jobs, Belisle said, which prepares them for future employment.
Belisle said he feels his job is rewarding and making the space for as many kids is worth it when he hears of parents getting to watch their kids play T-ball for the first time. He feels he's making a difference in West Fargo.
"It's things like that, it was pretty cool to hear," Belisle said. "I was pretty proud of the job we do here at West Fargo Parks and the young staff we have working with those kids."
Kids in each activity
Adaptive Day Camp: 20
Creative Arts: 409
Shooting Sports: 30
Sports Samplers: 106
Day Camps: 89