Summer is always busy for Ross Willard. Dozens of kids flock to his shop in Allison Hill in the course of a day to get a hand with a bike repair or pick up a new set of wheels.
Recycle Bicycle is especially busy this summer. With the COVID-19 pandemic restricting many indoor activities, families are looking for ways to get outside and entertain themselves.
“People say, ‘Ross slow down,’ but I can’t, there are people in need,” he said.
With the core of Recycle Bicycle’s volunteers in their 70s, the shop had to close for safety reasons, but that didn’t stop Willard’s phone from ringing off the hook. It wasn’t long until the team was back fixing bikes by appointment.
“One day, I went in two hours early, stayed one hour late, wore a mask the whole time and didn’t take a bathroom break,” Willard said.
Just another summer Saturday in Harrisburg.
Out and About
At the start of summer, people were just creeping out of their houses, testing the waters of returning to public life. But with Harrisburg now in the “green” phase of reopening, sidewalks are filling back up and stores are re-opening their doors.
Still, summer will look different this year.
One of the most notable changes was the city’s decision to close its pools. Not unique from many other cities, Harrisburg acted out of caution.
“I know this is going to be a disappointment for many, but there are a couple things that could be seen as positives that come out of this,” Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse said in a Facebook Live broadcast.
He mentioned the possibility of maintenance work on the pools and applying for grants to build a spray park in the coming years.
Along with closing the pools, the Department of Parks and Recreation is holding limited events this summer.
Department Director Kevin Sanders said that the city will host a series of movie nights beginning in July.
Although there’s no access to the pools this summer, outdoor activities are not hard to find.
After closing for a few weeks, Water Golf’s mini-golf course on City Island opened in early May.
“The city gave us approval to open whenever we wanted to,” Owner Jeff Palkovic said. “If I couldn’t keep my employees and customers safe, I wouldn’t have opened up.”
Water Golf employees are taking precautions to ensure the safety of their customers. They sanitize clubs and balls after each use, installed a sneeze guard at the front counter and encourage customers to wear masks as well as social distance.
Palkovic said their concession stand has been picking up even more than the golf, acknowledging the desire people have to get out of their homes.
The response from golfers has encouraged Palkovic, as many have been extra supportive.
“Normally we get 999 really nice people out of 1,000,” he said. “This year, it’s even better than that. Everyone is so excited.”
Even with school out for the summer, students around the city participate in educational experiences—aka, summer camp!
Most are still on for the summer, although their format may look different.
Open Stage, for one, is holding a 10-week virtual theater arts class.
“Things are different this summer, but I think that has given us license to change things up,” Producing Artistic Director Stuart Landon said. “We’ve put together a really cool curriculum.”
While Open Stage summer courses are typically focused on a specific topic, this class will be more general, Landon said. Topics included are musical theater, acting, theater history, design and tech. There will be a group for 8 to 12 year olds and one for 13 and older.
“This situation is not going to keep us down,” Landon said.
Bethesda Mission’s Community Center in Allison Hill is also holding camp, but chose to take an in-person approach.
Starting in June, groups of about 25 kids each have been participating in outdoor and indoor activities. Executive Director Scott Dunwoody explained that the teen group is especially important because it provides internships and job training.
Art & Nature
For those looking to get out and enjoy the sunshine, there’s plenty to do outdoors in the city.
Throughout the pandemic, Harrisburg parks have remained open.
“We are a community in Harrisburg that is fortunate that we made the decision to keep our parks and playgrounds open,” Papenfuse said. “We felt from the beginning that it was important for people to be able to go out to exercise and take walks.”
The Capital Area Greenbelt, Wildwood Park and Riverfront Park are of few of the most popular nature spots in the city. Wildwood is currently holding “Art in the Wild,” the park’s annual environmental art exhibition.
Sizeable trees populate each of these parks, offering shady resting places.
In addition, Sprocket Mural Works is encouraging people to stroll through the city for a self-guided mural tour. There are 40 murals to observe, 14 of which are new this year.
Whether you’re staying indoors and out of the heat or enjoying the summer sunshine, good news—summer is still on in Harrisburg.
Recycle Bicycle is located at 1722 Chestnut St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.recyclebicycleharrisburg.org.
Water Golf is located at 600 Riverside Dr., Harrisburg (City Island). Visit www.h2ogolf.com for more information.
To learn more about Open Stage’s Alsedek Theatre School, visit www.thealsedektheatreschool.com.
Bethesda Mission’s Community Center is at 1438 Herr St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.bethesdamission.org/our-ministries/community-center.
To download a map of Sprocket Mural Works’ Mural Trail, visit www.sprocketmuralworks.com.
Wildwood Park is located at 100 Wildwood Way, Harrisburg. Visit www.wildwoodlake.org.