Summer bike camps are back at WashCo Bikes
After having to cancel the summer bike program last year due to the pandemic, Joe Kurmaskie is thrilled to be able to show kids the joys of biking once again.
Kurmaskie runs WashCo Bikes Community Bike Center, a nonprofit bike shop based in Hillsboro.
WashCo Bikes promotes bicycling through education, advocacy and community events across Washington County. It donates bikes to children and adults in need through its Adopt-a-Bike program. Donated bikes and bike parts are refurbished, and bikes that aren't used for its core programs are sold at discounted rates at the shop, located at 137 N.E. Third St. in Hillsboro.
It also organizes bike safety programs such as bike rodeos and summer camps for youth.
"It was a tough blow," Kurmaskie said about having to cancel summer bike camps, adding that while the cancelation didn't impact his bottom line, it was difficult because the program is a core part of the organization.
"We couldn't continue fulfilling our mission as we want to, so this year, being able to come back, that's what it's all about," he said.
There are seven one-week Saddle Up Summer Bike Camps available throughout Washington County this year:
The camps run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday thru Friday and are divided into two age groups (8-9 and 10-12).
Campers spend time working on bike skills such as signaling and maps and route planning, which Kurmaskie calls "edutainment." They'll also learn how to fix bike problems.
For much of the day, campers ride their bikes through neighborhoods to fun destinations and trails with their instructors.
Typically, campers would ride to aquatic centers or bowling alleys, Kurmaskie said. Which activities campers ride to this year will depend on what COVID-19 restrictions allow. Kurmaskie said instructors will have plenty of games to play at parks if indoor entertainment facilities are closed, and campers will go to outdoor entertainment facilities as well.
He said he and the instructors will closely follow all safety guidelines from health officials, modeling activities off school recess guidelines. He added that all instructors will be vaccinated by the time camps start.
The benefit of biking is that it's inherently at a distance, Kurmaskie said.
Additionally, WashCo Bikes is trying to be more accessible to Spanish-speakers.
Kurmaskie said he has been able to bring on multiple bilingual instructors.
Costs for the camps are $325. Families can place a $150 deposit at the time of registration to reserve a spot.
The camps are an important opportunity for kids who have been at a loss of social activities during the pandemic, Kurmaskie said.
"If (the pandemic) has helped anything, and I'm not trying to paint a rosy picture, but it has definitely gotten people to kind of look at their work-life-family balance a little more," Kurmaskie said. "Hopefully we don't go back to the old normal."
Registrations for the Saddle Up Summer Bike Camps are open now.
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