Pinched by cutbacks in staff and funding, the District's 1981 summer recreation program opens Saturday, June 30.
The climate of austerity will be felt almost immediately. The opening day festivities will be held as usual on the Ellipse, but without the traditional parade.
That cutback is the first of several the District's summer recreation program may experience because of the city's money problems. The parade down Constitution Avenue will be omitted because it would have required overtime pay for police and other city employes.
Beyond the opening day ceremonies, it will require a more than 50 percent increase in volunteers and donations of close to $70,000 to prevent significant cutbacks in many of the District's traditional summer programs according to Samuel LeBeach, associate recreation director.
Those in jeopardy include programs for the handicapped, lunchtime concerts in downtown parks, the summer youth soccer legue and funds to send city youths to the 15th annual U.S. Youth Games. The Youth Games, for children 10-15 years old in more than a dozen cities, promotes citywide competition in five sports: tennis, swimming, bowling, basketball and track and field. This year the District hopes to send 79 of its most talented young athletes to four days of competition at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
Many recreation programs have received donations in the past from Washington businesses and individuals, LaBeach said, but federal support has been crucial to their survival. Last year the city got only $40,000 in federal Community Services Administration funds for its recreation programs compared to $170,000 in 1979. That federal program has now died, said LaBeach, and the city's programs received no federal funds this year.
LaBeach estimates that private donations are needed to keep the following activities alive or operating for most of the summer:
$15,000 is needed to cover transportation and other costs for the Youth Games.
$15,000 is required for programs that serve about 650 handicapped youths at 12 day camps and handicapped centers around the city.
$1,500 is needed to keep the icty's summer soccer program going and about $3,000 is needed to keep the popular youth tennis program operating for 10 weeks at a dozen or more locations. If funds cannot be found, the tennis program will be cut to seven weeks and, at most, nine locations.
Lunchtime concerts, given three times a week at three downtown parks for the past eight years, will be scheduled for seven instead of 10 weeks or may even be cancelled unless $3,500 in donations can be found. The concerts are scheduled to begin July 7.
The city's 30 indoor and outdoor pools and 15 smaller learn-to-swim pools will open Monday, June 22, offering the same free instruction and water sports that have made District summer swimming program the most extensive in the nation, according to LaBeach. But, as in the past two years, pool hours will be reduced because of limited funds. City pools, which once were open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the summer, will be open from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
The kick-off festivities on the Ellipse this year will feature almost continuous band music from noon to 6 p.m., a mini soccer game, a volleyball match between teams from the Soviet and Brazilian embassies, a parachuting contest, arts and crafts, dancing and ethnic foods. Boxing, diving into a portable pool and other athletic contests also are planned.
The city's 36th annual outdoor art fair on the Ellipse, from June 18 to 21, also coincides with Saturday's festival.
The city recreation department has been forced to cut back its fulltime staff by 42 percent in the past two years, from more than 750 employes to 443, and its budget has dropped from $23 million in 1980 to this year's $21.7 million, according to administrative officer Robert J. Fleming.
Another $3 million is expected to be cut from the recreation budget during the 1982 fiscal year which begins in October, Fleming said, although he said he expects the fulltime staff to remain at 443.
"We will be into volunteers and private donations even more next year" in order to compensate for dwindling recreation funds, he said.
A total of 603 volunteers contributed more than 110,000 hours of work in city recreation programs last year, most of them during the summer months. To keep programs going this summer, 952 volunteers are needed along with $70,000 in donations, "a lot more than the $15,000 to $20,000 we got last year," said Fleming. City recreation programs have depended on volunteers and donations since the recreation department was founded in 1942.
Along with its other programs, the recreation department sends 100 children a week to the city's free summer camp in Scotland, Md., and provides day-care programs at 10 centers in the city, cooperative play programs for preschoolers at 26 centers, day camps at seven city parks, a youth gardening program, tennis and other sports for adults and senior citizens, and a roving leader program to try to help "hostile youth groups and individuals."