Odd - yet fitting - time to honor parks and rec

Summer Brew & Q — canceled.

Taco Tuesday — postponed.

Independence Day celebration — canceled.

The messages stamped in red in the online summer brochure indicate which programs are not taking place this summer.

No pool memberships.

No group swimming lessons.

On some pages, one or two programs carry the red notice; on others, all are affected.

This seems a strange moment, then, to celebrate the Hinsdale Parks and Recreation Department. But July is Park and Recreation Month across the country, and the National Recreation and Park Association believes there is no better time to recognize the essential services being provided by the people of parks and recreation.

“This July, we will begin to redefine the field of parks and recreation as an essential, vital necessity by sharing how park and recreation professionals are frontline staff, confronting our most pressing health, environmental and social challenges,” the association’s website states.

Hinsdale is lucky to have Heather Bereckis leading its team. She joined the village as recreation supervisor in 2013 and has been superintendent of parks and recreation here since May 2017. She oversees a $2.5 million budget and is responsible for managing two full-time and 70 part-time staff members, including facility managers, pool lifeguards and camp counselors. She earned her bachelor’s degree in education/leisure studies from Kent State University and also has experience as an aquatics director, unit director and senior director for two YMCAs and a Boys and Girls Club.

During the past few months, her job has become more challenging than ever. In the early days of the stay at home order, she and Sammy Hanzel, recreation supervisor, lent their talents to the village’s economic development efforts, creating the “Hinsdale to Go” Facebook page and assisting with other special promotions to support Hinsdale’s restaurants and retail businesses. She also worked with the staff to create #HinsdaleatHomeFun, with ideas shared on the department’s Instagram and Facebook pages. More recently, her efforts were focused on devising a reservation system to allow for the safe opening of the Hinsdale Community Pool late last month and modifying programs such as Movies in the Park so they can take place safely.

People are the focus of this year’s parks and rec recognition, but the village has many assets to highlight. Residents are able to enjoy more than 131 acres of parkland at 17 different locations. Amenities include baseball, football, lacrosse and soccer fields; basketball, tennis, platform tennis, pickleball and volleyball courts; playgrounds; picnic areas and shelters; ice skating rinks, sledding hills and an 18-hole disc golf course. The jewel of the village, the 52-acre Katherine Legge Memorial Park, is home to the Zook-designed Lodge, a beautiful spot to hold everything from corporate gatherings to family parties to weddings.

Our interaction with Hinsdale’s parks and its recreation programs certainly has looked a little different this summer. Our appreciation of them, however, is stronger than ever.