NEWPORT — Mike Cavanaugh, recently appointed to lead the city’s parks and recreation department, is working hard to innovate, offering virtual recreation programming to keep the community connected.
“What we’re really trying to do is have that community engagement,” Cavanaugh said.
Cavanaugh and his staff have been working quickly to improve their online presence, creating content to engage people who aren’t able to use the Newport Recreation and Aquatic Center due to the widespread closures resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
While not many people have access to a swimming pool, most have a bathtub, Cavanaugh pointed out.
As a parent himself, he recognized the challenge faced by parents at home with active children. In an effort to provide activity while staying connected with families who will seek swimming lessons when the aquatics center reopens, Assistant Aquatics Supervisor Keely Naughton prepared a video with instruction to help parents teach their children essential basics of swimming even while at home — in the bathtub.
“We start with blowing bubbles and move on to practicing kicking … pouring water over their heads, putting their faces in the water, because a lot of kids have a hard time with goggles in the pool, so it’s good to practice at home,” Naughton detailed. “We practice back floats. We also talk about safety in the bathtub.
“Never leave your children unattended in the bathtub,” Naughton emphasized.
Recognizing that not everyone can practice swimming in the bathtub, Aquatics Supervisor Kathy Cline prepared a video with helpful tips to improve your stroke out of the pool.
Cavanaugh said his staff has been attending a lot of webinars and meetings with Oregon Recreation & Park Association and the National Recreation and Park Association. “There’s a lot of brainstorming going on,” he said.
Starting with “organic grassroots programming,” Cavanaugh explained, “We’ve reached out to our instructors, and we’re bringing them in to make videos.” These will include exercise, fitness, cooking classes, kids activities, both indoor and outdoor meditation — things people can do at home, he said.
“At the pool they have a trivia board, Trivia of the Day. It’s a huge hit with all our swimmers. So they’re doing that now through social media,” Cavanaugh said, pointing out the creativity and adaptability of his team, and the parks and rec community in general, which he said is “tight-knit.”
Exercise instructor Brenda Luntzel has a huge following, Cavanaugh said. “Hers was one of the first videos we posted.”
Cavanaugh, as he finds new ways to adapt, remains optimistic and forward thinking. This is going to end, and when it does, there will be swimming lessons, he pointed out. “We’re here for our community.”
With a new Instagram page and an active following on Facebook, the city is posting video content on their YouTube channel. Find relevant links on the city’s website: newportoregon.gov/recreation, or simply search Newport, Oregon, Parks and Recreation. Cavanaugh noted the Newport 60-plus Activity Center has its own Facebook page.