Summertime blues? Now that school is out, youth faced with free time

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 15, 2004

As the final bell rings, signifying the end of the school year, students are often faced with the dilemma of what to do with their free time during the summer.

While summer baseball and softball leagues are always a popular option for kids and teenagers, this summer there are many more options and activities to keep young people involved.

Some of the more popular places young people are frequenting this summer are area YMCA’s, Lay Lake and Oak Mountain State Park.

The Shelby County YMCA branch, located in Pelham, offers a variety of outdoor activities and camps for young people to get involved in.

Some of the facilities the Shelby County YMCA houses are a pool, adult gymnasium, youth gymnasium, pool tables and basketball courts.

Shelby County’s youth gymnasium offers young people an alternative to the traditional weightlifting facilities.

Christine Shores, the youth and family director at the Shelby County YMCA, said she feels it is extremely important for young people to stay involved during these critical summer months when youths often have a lot of free time.

&uot;Our programs help develop character and social interaction skills while also keeping kids involved and out of trouble,&uot; Shores said.

Shores also said the summer programs offered at the YMCA help stress the core values of the YMCA: caring, honesty, respect and responsibility.

Right now, the Shelby County YMCA is offering day camps for kids from ages 5-14.

The camps, which take place at Oak Mountain State Park, offer kids a variety of activities.

&uot;We take the kids hiking, they play sports, do crafts, sing songs, perform skits and we also have a devotion time,&uot; Shores said.

Shores said the Shelby County YMCA sees approximately 90 kids in the 5 to 6-year-old range and 160 kids in the 7 and up range.

The camps have become so popular, the 5 to 6-year-old camps are full at the moment, Shores said.

Along with the Shelby County YMCA, there are also YMCA branches in Alabaster and at the Hargis Retreat.

For those not wanting to attend YMCA camps at Oak Mountain, the State Park is open to the public from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week.

Some of the facilities and activities offered at Oak Mountain State Park are cottages, camping, picnicking, tennis, swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, mountain biking and golfing.

While golfing has been popular at the park, the golf course will be closed this summer due to renovations.

Park officials are hoping to have the driving range opened by August and the course by October, at the latest.

Keener Morrow, the naturalist at Oak Mountain State Park, said he feels it is vital for not just young people, but for everyone to experience the beauty and variety Oak Mountain has to offer.

Visitors at Oak Mountain can rent canoes for $7 per hour, four-man paddle boats for $12 and flat bottom fishing boats for $9 per day, but no gas motors are allowed.

Some of the activities planned at Oak Mountain this summer include the July 4Peavine Fall Run, an 8-mile run, and the Sept. 25 2nd-annual Conservation Celebration which is sponsored by the Alabama Wildlife, Parks, Marine, Fish and Land Divisions.

The Conservation Celebration is similar to one held in Texas every year.

The celebration in Texas draws approximately 60,000 people.

Morrow said he hopes this year’s Celebration will draw at least half of what the Texas celebration draws.

Another outdoor hot spot for young people in the summer is Lay Lake.

At the lake, young people can swim, fish and boat, while enjoying the climate of an Alabama summer.

Morrow said, whether it be with the YMCA, Oak Mountain State Park or Lay Lake, young people in the county should take advantage of the great outdoors.

&uot;It is more important now than ever for everyone to get outdoors from their everyday life,&uot; Morrow said.

&uot;There is a lot for people to see out here but you have to get outdoors to see it.