As temperatures begin consistently creeping into the high 80s, Fort Worth’s public spaces are preparing to support residents looking to escape the heat.
Fort Worth’s 19 library branches will serve as the main resource for residents looking for another space with air conditioning. Fort Worth’s community centers, also open to the public, will mostly serve the city’s youth with a day camp.
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Community centers will continue regular programming during camp but doors will remain locked to protect the safety of campers in the city’s care, said Kelli Pickard, assistant director of recreation with the city.
“The key thing we’re trying to do is provide a safe space for kids to come recreate,” Pickard said. Registration for the camp is open on a rolling basis.
Community centers will also open to the public during emergencies like an apartment fire. Members of the public will still be allowed limited access to the centers to get a break from the heat or access water, Pickard said. Residents will have to ring a doorbell and be let in by a staff member to access the center.
“It’s just a way that we can provide a comfort level and increase comfort level for parents and families who are sending their kids to our facility,” Pickard said. Most community centers will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
One community center, Chisholm Trail Community Center, will begin extending its hours June 12 for the FW@6 late-night program. The center will now be open until 10 p.m. most weekdays and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The program started in high crime areas during the early 90s to provide a safe space for youth to spend their evenings.
The program, funded by the Crime Control and Prevention District, operates in five community centers. Chisholm Trail will be the latest location to add late night hours and programming. Max Pierre, the district superintendent, envisions programming to help teens apply for college and technical careers.
“The first point is to be able to have a safe place in the community where teens can come in and honestly hang out if they want to,” Pierre said. “Apart from that, it’s being able to have a number of programs that can help them.”
The program has struggled to maintain staffing for after-hours positions; the parks and recreation department went through six rounds of hiring for Chisholm Trail. Staffing shortages have also forced some late night programs to reduce their hours. The city struggled to fill the positions due to job’s odd hours.
“I think it ended up working out in the long run, having the right individual who is interested and who does care and who wants to make a difference,” Pierre said. “So I’m very excited to see where it goes.”
As council members have asked Parks and Recreation to consider extending the program to other community centers around the city, the department has recommended several strategies to improve staffing, like expanding the department’s budget to create incentives for late night positions.
“It’s one more layer of something that we can offer and do for the community that I think is really going to be really great,” Pierre said. “It’s more time to put positive programming out there and have a safe space for a lot of the kids in our community.”
While the city works to provide services and programming in community centers, libraries remain the most open and accessible public buildings in the city. Throughout the summer, the city’s library branches will remain open most days, from about 10 a.m. through 8 p.m. depending on the branch.
Residents can read more about hours and programming at libraries here.
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.