Portsmouth Parks & Rec has lots of summer fun on tap

Program’s success has led to expanding programs, new hire

By Jim McGaw
Posted 6/19/24

PORTSMOUTH — The Portsmouth Parks & Recreation Department has become the beneficiary of its own success — and so have local residents.

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Portsmouth Parks & Rec has lots of summer fun on tap

Program’s success has led to expanding programs, new hire


PORTSMOUTH — The Portsmouth Parks & Recreation Department has become the beneficiary of its own success — and so have local residents.

Due to the increased revenue coming in due to the growth of the department’s programming under Director Wendy Bulk, the town was able to hire an assistant director, April Rios, in February, and has also brought on board marketing intern David Ditata.

“Wendy has done an amazing job by herself the last seven years,” said Rios. “She was able to make the programs what they are today. So we’re just figuring out different programs, different things.”

The biggest addition this year is the town’s first summer music and entertainment series. The rec department has hosted the occasional family event at Sandy Point Beach in the past, but it’s expanding things this year.

“This is actually Portsmouth’s first year for a concert series, and we’re doing a family day and a family night,” said Rios, who’s gearing up for the first event: a performance by Cee Cee and The Riders at Sandy Point Beach from 6:30-8 p.m. on Thursday night, June 27. (See page 2 for the series’ complete schedule.)

The department’s summer camps started Monday and continue through Aug. 23. “We did close registration, but we wouldn’t turn any children away if they need a last-minute placement. As long as we have enough space and enough staff, we would definitely welcome anybody who wanted to sign up late. They would just have to contact me,” Rios said.

Special attractions, such as an illusionist or farm animals, are featured at the camp every Monday — also known as “fun days.”  

“We have ‘Wacky Wednesdays,’ which might be ‘Crazy Hair Day’ or ‘Wild World of Sports’ — something like that,” she said. “On Fridays we usually have a bounce house or other fun activities like that for the kids, with pizza. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, different pods would go from Glen Park to Sandy Point Beach.”

The department is in the process of hosting a parents’ night out, so mom and dad can drop off their kids and do their own thing for a couple of hours. “We’re not sure of the dates, but it will be some time this summer,” Rios said.

A recreational softball league for adults — generally for ages 25 and up, but that’s not written in stone — was set to start on Tuesday of this week. “We have four teams signed up right now. We will play Tuesdays and Thursdays, and makeup games could be Monday and Wednesday. We’re going to play at the high school,” Rios said.

More players are needed, however, as the town hopes to get six teams competing. Next year, the department hopes to attract corporate sponsors for each team.

What about pickleball?

As for the fastest-growing sport around, the department has lined some outdoor pickleball courts for those interested. “It was supposed to start last Sunday (June 9) but it rained,” Rios said. 

The department still has its eye on establishing a permanent pickleball facility, however. In 2022, the town lost out on a Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Recreation Grant to transform the abandoned basketball courts at the former Elmhurst School into a dedicated four-court pickleball facility. 

“We recently received a (different) matching grant for pickleball. Wendy is looking into getting it resurfaced, and then potentially lining it. I can’t say it’s definitely going to work this season, but definitely something in the near future because it’s become so popular," said Rios, noting the rec department offered indoor pickleball at Pennfield School during the off-season because of the high demand.

She’s also in the process of becoming certified to teach pilates to adults on Sundays. “We’re looking into space at either one of the schools, or one of the day cares that can lend us a room,” said Rios, adding that activity could also be moved outdoors as weather permits.

Ditata, a Cape Cod resident and a junior studying marketing at the University of New Hampshire, said the department is also working with two local men to get a flag football program up and running. 

“Camp’s in full swing, but once it fades out a little bit we’re going get really going on the flag football. We’re looking for volunteers as referees and head coaches as well,” he said. (If interested, e-mail Ditata at dditata@portsmouthri.gov.

Beach access

Finally, it you want to visit the town-owned Sandy Point Beach, don’t forget to get your vehicular sticker in order to get free access. If you’re a transfer station user, your dump sticker will suffice. All residents, including those who don’t use the transfer station, can also go to Town Hall to get a beach sticker by showing your registration.

Out-of-towners pay $15 on Wednesday and Thursday and $20 Friday through Sunday and on holidays to access the beach.

For more information, go here, call 401/864-0090 or e-mail Parks-rec@portsmouthri.gov. April Rios’s direct e-mail is Arios@portsmouthri.gov.

Portsmouth Parks and Recreation Department

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