Park program hangs in the balance after complaints

Parents say their children have been traumatized by bullying during summer program supervised by two teens most of the time

CHILDREN PARTICIPATING in Fredonia’s Summer Park Program searched for frogs near a culvert while another ran through a sprinkler to cool off in Stoney Creek Park Monday. The program has come under fire from parents and an official who called it “a free for all.” Photos by Sam Arendt

By COREY SCHMIDT

Ozaukee Press staff

The future of Fredonia’s Summer Park Program is in jeopardy as disorganization, staffing and bullying concerns have led to cancellation discussions.

Parents voiced their concerns at the July 7 Village Board meeting about how bullying is an overwhelming issue. The bullying is following kids back home, having an impact on their morale.

“My daughter was pretty traumatized,” a parent said. “It took me the entire day to calm her down. She is still pretty upset.”

After multiple instances, parents got involved. However, they are seeing limited action. One parent said concerns were sent to the village via email, but they were left unanswered.

Trustee Dan Gehrke, who is also on the Parks and Recreation Committee, said he is aware of these issues. He said other community members have expressed feelings of disorganization and chaos.

“I’ve heard some other complaints about things being disorganized,” he said. “It’s a free for all.”

This includes children wandering the park and sitting underneath trees, not participating in program activities, according to parent complaints.

The program is supervised by two high school students with little assistance from the village. According to Reis Erickson, one of the program’s leaders, Fredonia’s Director of Public Works Roger Strohm  checks in every day. Otherwise, the two teenagers supervise 23 kids on their own. Erickson said Strohm is helpful and even brought a slip and slide one hot day.

Staffing concerns were an issue going into the program since the village only received two applicants. It was deemed best to take a chance on the two applicants versus not offer the program at all, Gehrke said.

The Village Board decided to look into ending the program early after hearing these complaints. Gehrke said other recreational programs are doing the same, such as his child’s swimming lessons. These other decisions are being made in large part due to staffing shortages.

Gehrke said the program could become a liability to the village if something goes wrong.

Parents attending the board meeting said they don’t want the park program to go away. They said previous years were  successful, but the village should offer the two park leaders additional support.

Gehrke said the village cannot afford to hire someone to oversee parks and recreation activities because its tax base isn’t high enough.

“It all comes down to budget and since Fredonia’s a smaller village, we can’t afford a parks and recreation staff member,” Gehrke said.

Gehrke said he will have conversations with Strohm on how to improve the program this week. He wants to make it fair to the village, park leaders and kids so everyone has a positive experience.

Gehrke said he anticipates having a decision regarding the program’s future by the end of the week.

The Summer Park Program runs from noon to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at Stoney Creek Park.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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