How was summer vacation 2023? TFR seeks your experiences to inform plans for town program
In March, the Tewksbury Families for Recreation committee launched with the goal of revitalizing Tewksbury’s town-run rec program, to bring offerings in line with what residents of all age groups in Wilmington, Reading, Billerica and other surrounding towns enjoy. The Facebook group signed on almost 350 members in less than 36 hours, and town leaders took notice.
Now the group is looking to zero in on what residents want in a program based on their experiences this summer.
“I’ve had a few conversations with town staff regarding our campaign for recreational programming, and feedback from our community has been all over the map,” said Kate Bugda Gwilt, a founder of the TFR movement. “Some community members seem pretty happy with the summer programming our town offers, while others wish there were more. Because of this, we’ve decided to collect community input over the next month.”
Town-run programs offer a variety of year-round and summer activities for all age groups, not just children and seniors. These include casual sports, such as tennis, flag football or pick-up basketball; arts and crafts; movies or trivia contests; and social events like concerts, open mic nights and dances. Wilmington’s rec department is widely seen as a model. It runs a wide variety of adult and youth programs as outlined in a recent newsletter.
And these programs not only don’t cost taxpayers because they cover their operations through small registration fees for camps and classes, they offer summer employment opportunities for local youth.
“Funding isn’t the main concern here; it’s actually about having enough staff to recruit vendors to run the programs,” said Bugda Gwilt.
Town Manager Richard Montuori plans to include a recreation director position in next year’s town budget that will be voted on at the May 2024 Town Meeting. In the near term, Montuori is highly interested in involving community members and in facilitating various classes and programs in the town to meet the community’s needs and interests.
“My plan with all of this data? Bring a meaningful representation of our communities wants and desires for our next round of discussions with the Town Manager,” said Bugda Gwilt. “In the last poll, we represented over 700 members of our community. I’m aiming for wider representation this time.”
She has questions for residents: “Should we only budget for one program coordinator for our community? Or should we advocate for more staff and even consider bringing back the recreation department in its entirety? Activities at the senior center require more than one person. It’s definitely something to consider as we continue our discussions. I’m hoping we can establish a meaningful plan for approval at our May town meeting.”
The Tewksbury Families for Recreation group has about 100 community members signed on to support the effort. You can add your name to that list here.
Bugda Gwilt says that while the survey asks for a first name and initial, that info will not be shared.
“Confidentiality of responses is highly important to me, so people should feel comfortable being honest, knowing that their privacy will be respected,” she said.
For those looking for more information, there is a Facebook group where interested residents can ask questions, sign up to assist or stay informed on what will be put forward at May Town Meeting.