Concern About Children In Dickinson, North Dakota

Approximately one year ago, I wrote a blog post titled “Children Do Not Play In Dickinson, North Dakota.”  In that blog post I wrote that I hardly ever see children playing in Dickinson.  I don’t see them in the street, in their yards, or in their neighborhoods throwing balls, rocks, frisbees, boomerangs, or spears.  I don’t see them riding bicycles, jumping ramps, building ramps, building forts, or building tree houses.  I don’t see them walking to convenience stores or grocery stores to buy candy or soda.

I wondered why I don’t see children playing, like children used to play when I was a kid.  I will give a few reasons that I could think of why children don’t play in Dickinson:

  1.   Both the mother and father work, and they have instructed their children, “Come straight home after school, get off the school bus and go right in the house, do not leave the house, do not go outside, do not break anything, do not get hurt.  Your mother and father can’t leave work to respond to an emergency, so don’t make us lose our jobs.”
  2.  The mother and father are struggling financially, they are very scared of hospital and medical bills, and they are always telling their children, “Get out of that tree, don’t climb that tree, get off the roof, get down from the roof, you stay away from that river, you stay away from that lake, get out of the street, don’t play in the street, stay away from those kids, I don’t want you playing with those kids, I don’t want you riding your bicycle, I don’t want you playing football……We can’t afford for you to get hurt.”
  3.   I have seen some parents, especially women, that think everything their children do is a nuisance, and they try to eliminate everything, “I don’t want you making a mess, I don’t want you getting dirty, I don’t want you ruining your clothes, I don’t want you getting hurt, I don’t want to take you there, I don’t want to come and get you, I don’t want you going over there, I don’t want them coming over here, I can’t afford that, we don’t have the money for that, I’m not wasting money on that.”

There is a small percentage of families in Dickinson, where the parents think that it is important for their children to do things, and they are able to spend some money on their children, and they have the time to drop their kids off and pick them up from cub scouts, boy scouts, girl scouts, soccer practice, swimming practice, hockey practice, tennis lessons, or music lessons.  Maybe 10% to 15% of families in Dickinson do this with their children.

I feel bad for the other 85% of children in Dickinson, that stay inside, mostly because they are instructed to do so by their parents.  As I already described in the numbered lists above, their parents don’t want them getting hurt or getting into any kind of trouble.

At the West River Community Center in Dickinson, which is one of the nicest gym facilities in the United States, 10% to 15% of the parents in Dickinson drop their kids off for swimming practice, basketball practice, or hockey practice.  About another 10% of the families in Dickinson encourage their children to go to the West River Community Center on their own.  But this still leaves about 75% of the children in Dickinson staying inside at home.

I am concerned about 75% of the children in Dickinson staying inside at home.  This is not good for a number of reasons.  They are not getting enough exercise, they are not developing strength, stamina, agility, balance, confidence, and learning their own abilities.  I don’t think that things should be like this, especially because Dickinson has so much open space.

In many areas of the country, they used to have summer programs.  Some summer programs were organized and sponsored by the Parks & Recreation Department, some were sponsored by churches, and some were “Outward Bound” programs.

Before any readers start complaining, “They already have the cub scouts, girl scouts, boy scouts, and little league baseball in Dickinson”, you have got to remember that only 10% to 15% of families in Dickinson participate in these organizations, for various reasons.  Some of the reasons for non-participation include the requirement/expectation to be at every meeting/practice, penalization for not being at meetings/practice, competitiveness, politics, favoritism, and lack of enjoyment by non-athletic children.

I am concerned about the 75% of children in Dickinson that stay inside at home, and are not participating in scouts, team sports, lessons, or the West River Community Center.  I want to talk about the possibilities for other summer programs.

This past summer, I was having a discussion with a well known Dickinson musician named “Boston Steve”, who is in his sixties, and moved here from Portland, Maine in 2014 with his wife Melissa.  I was talking about Patterson Lake, and how nice it was that Dickinson has this lake right in the city.  Boston Steve said, that he had to proposed to some people, having about ten Sunfish sailboats at Patterson Lake to teach kids how to sail in the summer.  He said that he would volunteer for free, if someone would provide the boats.  I thought that this was an excellent idea.

When Boston Steve was a kid, and when I was kid, I used to go sailing quite often.  Sometimes on larger boats with other people, but also by myself on two-person boats.  These were some of the best times in my life.  On a nice warm day as a kid, I could not wait to get to the water, to put the mast, rudder, and centerboard on a boat, to wade out into the water with it, to jump in, and silently and effortlessly take off going 5 mph to 10  mph, without having to peddle or paddle!

Boston Steve was not an uptight asshole, a drill sergeant, or a coach like some youth activity directors.  All he was talking about was having kids sign up, giving them all swimming lessons, and having every one of them wear life jackets.  Teaching them in a friendly manner, knowing that all the kids couldn’t wait to get in the water and get in a boat.  And at first, not allowing anyone to go past the rope line and buoys.  He would not have had many demands, rules, or expectations.  It was for fun, not a competition.

The sailing would not have to cost the kids or their families anything.  It would be nice if a city transit bus, or another transit service could pick the kids up and drop them off.

If you can have a sailing class for kids in the summer, you can also have a horseback riding class in the summer, and also a hiking class on local buttes.  Every week, the hiking class could climb a different local butte.

The Dickinson Summer Outdoor Recreation Program Schedule could be:

Mon. 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon……….Kids Rock Climbing Wall Class at WRCC

Tue. 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon…………Kids Sailing Class at Patterson Lake

Wed. 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon……….Kids Horseback Riding Class at Fairgrounds

Thu. 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon…………Kids Sailing Class at Patterson Lake

Fri. 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m……………….*Kids Butte Climb (new location each week)

Sat. 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon…………..*Kids Mountain Bike (new location each week)

*Parents welcome to climb or ride along.

What would the costs be?  Let us say that each class requires two WRCC personnel, in addition to an unpaid volunteer or two.  14 hours of classes x 2 employees x $30/ hour = $840 per week.  (I use $30 to account for the wage, plus payroll taxes, plus workers comp., plus overhead).  12 weeks x $840 = $10,080.  This is the labor cost for the summer.

What do the horses cost?  Could someone provide 6 to 8 horses with saddles for two hours, once a week for $500?  12 week x $500 = $6,000.

What do the Sunfishes or equal cost?  Used ones, about $500 to $1,000 each.  10 x $800 avg. each = $8,000 one time cost.  Twenty-five life jacket = $1,000 one time cost.

What do the Mountain Bikes and BMX Bikes cost?  They cost just about nothing if you take what the City of Dickinson Police Department has in lost and stolen bicycles.  I have bought five of these bicycles for $25 each, and they don’t cost a lot to fix.  There are about fifty for sale at the Dickinson Public Auction each summer.  The inmates at the jail could fix them.  Tires, tubes, and twenty five helmets = $1,000.

Of course, of course there has to be liability insurance to cover the liability of Rock Climbing Wall class, Sailing class, Horseback Riding Class, Butte Hiking class, and Mountain Bike riding class.  What would this insurance cost be, $10,000 each summer?

Labor Cost……………$10,080




Total = $27,080 per summer

The sailboats and life jackets would be a one time cost of $9,000.

Where does the money come from, this $27,000 per summer?  Many activities in Dickinson, such as the downtown summer concerts, raise more money than this through donations and sponsors.

The Theodore Roosevelt Airport, West River Community Center, WRCC Hockey Center, Beisiot Activities Center, St. Joseph’s Hospital, other facilities, and projects were funded through private donations.  It should be a goal of the Dickinson Parks & Recreation Department, to seek to create a charitable trust with the help of private individuals, to permanently fund summer recreation programs for children in Dickinson.  Old people like children, they don’t have anything against the poor little children.  Just a $1 million endowment, could permanently fund a $30,000 summer program.  But you would continue to seek donations to keep growing this fund.

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