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News: COVID-19 Related Uncertainties Have Not Dampened City of Bristol Community Engagement In 2020 Thanks To Parks, Recreation, Youth & Community Services

Date Published Author
12/25/2020 12:00:00 AM   

COVID-19 Related Uncertainties Have Not Dampened City of Bristol Community Engagement In 2020 Thanks To Parks, Recreation, Youth & Community Services  

BRISTOL, CT., December 23, 2020 — Uncertainties related to COVID-19 throughout 2020 have not dampened the  Department of Parks, Recreation, Youth and Community Services ability to meet the needs of the Bristol community. Throughout 2020, the BPRYCS department offered virtual wellness programs, youth support groups, support to major social and political movements, community calls to action, as well as financial guidance and support to local families. Internally, the department has also been making changes, developing a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee to evaluate program inequities, as well as evaluating accreditation standards and developing policies in preparation for applying for national accreditation through the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies.

The BPRYCS offices have remained open and operating throughout the pandemic, offering essential services that provide fundamental help to the communities' growing needs.
In June, Aubrey Minkler joined the Youth & Community Services division in the crucial role of Community Services Coordinator. Minkler wasted no time, immediately helping to assess basic needs and provide equitable opportunities for Bristol residents. The Youth and Community Services division also grew with the addition and integration of the Parent and Child Program (formerly housed under Bristol Health).

In August, Amry Shelby was selected as Recreation Supervisor. Only a few on the job, Shelby was pivoting to meet unexpected needs by rapidly deploying new COVID-friendly recreation programs, most notably, an essential collaboration with the Bristol Board of Education to introduce Fall Care, a child care program developed to assist parents and families with distance learning.
With capacity modifications and strict guidelines, the Aquatics Division successfully operated Rockwell Park Pool this summer and continues to operate Dennis Malone Aquatic Center with enhanced programs, such as therapeutic swimming. Quick and efficient COVID program adjustments and innovative offerings like Scuba Santa and sensory bags earned the Aquatics Division a Gold Medal Award from the American Red Cross for the Learn to Swim program as well as being recognized in the Best of 2020 Edition of Aquatics International Magazine for the Lifeguard Training program.

In addition to new program offerings and new faces in the office, BPRYCS completed multiple large scale projects, including renovating the Dennis Malone Aquatic Center, Page Pool, and Muzzy Field, as well as facilitating a department master planning process with community needs assessments.

BPRYCS continues to offer essential services and community improvement projects into 2021, with the goal of formally adopting and implementing a Strategic Plan. As part of this plan, the department intendents to re-launch the Pine Lake Adventure Park, construct the Rockwell Park Pump Park & Gear Shop, and begin Phase I of the Page Park Pavilion renovation.
Access to free, safe, and high-quality services and programs can ease at least one of the challenges Bristol residents are currently experiencing with the pandemic and recommended restrictions. Well maintained parks and facilities provided a basic mental and physical outlet for Bristol residents in 2020. BPRYCS saw increased park user ship throughout the pandemic, highlighting the importance of access to free spaces in nature. The growth in park engagement lead the way for numerous smaller sale projects including: the addition of the Rockwell Park Rain Garden, Skate Park enhancements, new directional signage on the trails, and newly established pickle ball courts.

Within the BPRYCS department, Bristol Eliminating Substance Use Together (BEST), funded by the Drug Free Communities grant, ramped up their efforts to address the drug use epidemic and the critical resources available in Bristol. BEST offers a handful of essential services and has stepped up during COVID to provide prevention resources and lifesaving tools to the community. Working with city officials and the Bristol Police Department, BEST has set the precedent for numerous valued partnerships within Bristol. 

The City of Bristol’s response to COVID-19 has strengthened partnership within in the city and has established communication channels that will be maintained in the future. BPRYCS’ partnerships with Main Street Community Fund, Bike Bristol community group, and various city departments and committees, including the Mayor’s office, have proved to be critical resources.
As the department reflects back on 2020, BPRYCS is fortunate and proud to be able to provide activities and resources during such a difficult and unprecedented time. With over 250 residents on the waitlist for Decembers’ most recently launched program, the department is optimistic about the future of programs, events, and enhancements within the City of Bristol’s department of Parks, Recreation, Youth & Community Services.

BPRYCS encourages community members to visit or follow the department on social media for updates on offerings and services