Kennedy Recreation Center is a destination for local youth and community

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Part of the El Cajon Parks & Recreation Department, Kennedy Park is well known for its many community events that are free to the public including El Cajon’s yearly 4th of July celebration. Like a mini fair, the 4th of July celebration includes craft booths, inflatables, and a train ride that goes around the park. It is a daylong event that includes music and events for the entire family.

Part of the El Cajon Parks & Recreation Department, Kennedy Park is well known for its many community events that are free to the public including El Cajon’s yearly 4th of July celebration. Like a mini fair, the 4th of July celebration includes craft booths, inflatables, and a train ride that goes around the park. It is a daylong event that includes music and events for the entire family.

Julie Alon, El Cajon Recreation and Parks Manager said offering a place for the children to come is extremely important to the community. Kennedy Park gives a place for the kids to come after school, its programs are extremely affordable. Surrounded by Madison Elementary School, Montgomery Middle School, Granite Hills High School and the Grossmont Adult School the park is a destination for people from grade school to adults. With the three schools, students walk through the park every day and utilize its grounds and activities teaches the kids responsibility on being somewhere every week at a certain time, said Alon.

“We are extremely less costs for activities, especially compared to what other parks offer,” she said. “We offer a scholarship program for anything that does have fees that pays for a portion of those fees. But most important, it offers a place for kids to come and study, play and be off the streets. We are definitely a safe place for any age. A lot of them are active and it gives them the exercise component and our sports programs teach them what it is like to be a team player, which is invaluable.

Alon said its after school program is dropping base so there is no pick up list. Kids walk there after school and hang out until their older siblings or parents come and pick them up.

“But we have a lot of structured programs,” said Alon. “We have dance, gymnastics and cheer. Here at Kennedy we focus more on the youth sports side with basketball, indoor soccer and other programs.” 

Larry Seiv, acting supervisor said it is sports programs are based on recreation, team building, learning about the sport. “They learn how to win correctly and how to lose correctly,” he said. “We emphasize the learning process of the kids being a better person, not only being a better basketball player or whatever sports they play.”

Seiv said it also has flag football and a skate park in which it offers skate park classes.

“The cool thing about this location is that we have just about everything,” he said. “About the only thing we don’t have is a pool. We have sports fields, a basketball gymnasium, open areas for kids to play, soccer and football field and a baseball field on the side as well.”

It is the only park in El Cajon that has a skate park.

“Our skate park is the only one that is geared towards kids, not the teenagers and adults,” she said. “It has unofficially been marketed that way. But we are one of the few skate parks that are staffed for every hour that it is open. We have staff out there enforcing the rules. It doesn’t matter how old you are. You have to have an ID card, you have to wear your helmet, elbow and knee pads. We enforce how many skaters and bicycle riders can be in at the same time. It is not just an open free for all. Because of that we find that the older kids that don’t want to follow the rules go other places and we are getting the younger kids and their parents. I have to give credit to our lead skate park instructor. He is phenomenal and has grown that program up for our program. He was on the original committee as a kid and helped design the skate park, grew up skating here and then working here.”

Seiv said he is a product of the El Cajon Recreation programs. “I did the basketball, football, all the sports and many of the extracurricular programs that the Parks and Recreation parks offer. We’ve offered quite a bit throughout the times, but we also have changed with the times. In the past few years we have offered a cooking program that wasn’t available 20 years ago.”

He said people use the park for just about everything. “People walk their dog, basic exercises, at tot lot, playing catch which makes it different than many of the other parks in El Cajon.”

Alon said its Tiny Tot preschool program is one of its most popular and successful programs. Her daughter went through it and her son is currently part of the program and Seiv’s children are currently participating in the program.

“It is such an affordable option for preschool,” said Alon. “It’s a phenomenal program that gets kids ready for kindergarten, which is a really big deal.”

She said one of its most popular program is the cooking program that is does after school on Tuesdays. She said it provides a quarterly guide to its programs that has all the information that the park offers, both drop in and structured programs. It goes to all the schools and twice a year it is mailed to all the residents.

Seiv said the seven week cooking program is offered three times during the school year. It is currently $20 per child and the Center provides everything for the classes.

“It is really an intro class into cooking,” he said. “It teaches kids to read a recipe, learn to use basic cooking tools like blenders and grills. They learn cooking vocabulary, food groups, sanitation. We have filled every session with a weight list since it began.”

On top of all the classes, the park offers a week long summer cooking camp. Kids get to do more complicated cooking techniques. Kids Camp Cook is fun because they get to do art camp projects in the rotation like decorating potholders, designing their own apron, and other cooking based projects along with physical activity and healthy eating, said Alon.

Kennedy Park has a room that it rents out for events and parties of any kind and it comes with tables and chairs. Also the skate park is available for rent for parties. It is very popular but Alon said that many people just do not know that these are available for rent and are shocked at the price for the rentals. Both are popular and once people use it they normally come back due to the low cost.

For more information about the Kennedy Recreation visit www.ci.el-cajon.ca.us and look under Parks, Playgrounds & Sports Fields.

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