By Marcia Zamorano
With water bottles in hand, a group of kids in Pima County’s summer recreational program recently headed to Kennedy Park Lake for their second field trip. They spent most of their visit waiting for the fish to bite, but for the first-timers, this outing would be more memorable than watching Kung Fu Panda 2 the previous week.
“They were all very excited,” said Joshua Emslie, neighborhood recreation center coordinator at Drexel Heights Community Center, 5220 S. San Joaquin Ave. “The nice thing about the fishing is we had probably 25 kids or so that had never been fishing so it was a good experience for them. The kids all had a really good time.”
Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation Department offers a summer recreational program at eight of its 14 community centers.
“Our goal is to get kids outdoors and engage them in outdoor activities,” said Wendy Burroughs, environmental education program manager.
Pima County’s summer and after-school programs are for kids age 5 to 13. Participation is free and determined by lottery because space is limited. Registration for the current summer program is closed, but registration for the fall semester after-school program for all centers will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 11-15. Those interested need to register at the center they want their children to attend. The lottery selection will be July 18. For more information, visit http://www.pima.gov/nrpr/centers/index.htm.
With the help of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, 55 kids from the Drexel Heights Community Center participated in the fishing clinic in mid-June.
Diane Tilton, wildlife manager with Game and Fish, said they had just stocked the lake the morning the kids were scheduled to visit. Tilton, along with 11 other Game and Fish staff members and one volunteer, was on hand at the clinic, which began at 8:30 a.m. with an introductory presentation by Joe Fagan, a contractor with Game and Fish. The kids quickly learned how to string a fishing pole and began casting their lines. Game and Fish provided the equipment, including the fishing poles, tackle and bait.
“At least seven kids caught fish and one girl caught a turtle,” Tilton said. By 11:30 a.m., when the fishing ended, Tilton estimated that the kids caught at least 15 fish. All the fish were released back into the lake.
Arizona Game and Fish offers free sports fishing education programs to the public and special groups around the state.
“I’m partnering with different organizations in town to provide for them different programs and field trips for the kids,” said Yajaira Gray, environment education coordinator with the parks department, who coordinated the event with Game and Fish.
The fishing program encourages people to use the four Tucson-area urban lakes – J.F. Kennedy Park Lake, 3600 S. La Cholla Blvd.; Silverbell Lake, 4600 N. Silverbell Road; Lakeside Lake, 8300 E. Stella Road; and Sahuarita Lake, 15466 S. Rancho Sahuarita Blvd. – as well as others across the state that Game and Fish stocks with catfish every two weeks.