“We are thrilled that this year, with the continued support of our partners, we are able to offer more free swim lessons than ever before, in every corner of New York,” said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. “We are proud to offer nearly 30 free Learn-to-Swim programs, where we expect to teach 3,000 more children to swim this summer.”
Since the program’s inception in 2013, the state parks department has expanded the number of participating locations each year. The State Department of Health provided $80,000 last year to help ensure the addition of even more locations through 2017. The National Swimming Pool Foundation and the Northeast Spa & Pool Association (NESPA) Foundation also donated $15,000 to offset staff and program costs. The American Red Cross provides free training to State Park lifeguards to obtain Water Safety Instructor (WSI) certification. This support has allowed for the certification of approximately 48 additional Water Safety Instructors; lifeguard staff who currently possess WSI certification will also help provide more opportunities for swim lessons.
The classes vary from swim lessons to water safety presentations at 26 locations, and build on instruction offered at state park facilities as part of programs arranged by summer camps, municipalities and other partner organizations. This year, over 570 individual classes will be taught for all ages and levels.
“New York’s learn-to-swim program not only teaches children valuable skills and techniques that could be life-saving, it also teaches them a lifelong, health-promoting physical activity,” said New York State Health Commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker. “Moreover, the learn-to-swim programs, which are held across the state, introduce children and their families to New York’s most beautiful natural resources and tourist destinations — our wonderful state parks.”
“Participation in formal swim lessons can reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning death by 88%,” said Thomas M. Lachocki, Ph.D., CEO with the NSPF, founder of the Step Into Swim Campaign. He adds, “What’s more, being in and around the water makes people happier. As parents, teaching our children to swim protects them and brings them joy.”
Enrollment for the learn-to-swim program for children is open at all participating New York State parks. Participants’ parents are asked to sign up ahead of time as space is limited and expected to fill up quickly. Each swim program is 40 to 45 minutes in duration and participants who enroll in these lessons will receive a Red Cross Learn-to-Swim Achievement Booklet and a State Parks Learn-to-Swim kit that includes a knapsack, tee-shirt and water bottle at the conclusion of the program.
Programs are free and pre-registration is required. For more information on locations, schedules and how to sign up, visit the Learn-to-Swim page at www.nysparks.com. Locally, lessons will be offered at:
Earlier this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the Connect Kids to Parks program, which provides free day-use park entry to fourth-grade students and their families and is creating a new $500,000 transportation grant program to help students from underserved schools visit state parks and historic sites.
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees 180 state parks and 35 historic sites, which are visited by 65 million people annually. A recent study found that New York State Parks generates $1.9 billion in economic activity annually and supports 20,000 jobs.