Sundays at Riverside

Written by MaryBeth Kressin
    Friday, 02 October 2015
Sundays at Riverside

I love working at Riverside Park on a Sunday. It is unlike any other day of the week. True, it is the shortest day that we have open hours (only from 12-5), but in those five hours the laughter, playing and energy cannot compare to any others. "Walk" with me and see what a typical Sunday is like.

The cool quiet moments before the building opens there is an almost palpable peace as our small but strong weekend staff prepares for the day. After we walk around straightening this and that, make sure the coffee is brewed and the music is turned on, we unceremoniously unlock the front door.

The building fills up almost immediately with visitors - young, old, quiet, rowdy, kids and adults alike. People wandering in from the bike trail to get a quick drink of water, a couple returning an equipment lending canoe from their river adventures of the day before, a neighbor looking for a cool place to check his email, all greeted by our volunteer receptionist Anna or Community Programs staff Lesley and Sam, or me.

As I bring up a tray of clean mugs and make a fresh pot of coffee, I overhear Anna checking out the canoe to another couple not 10 minutes after it was returned. She shares some tidbits the 1st couple told her and they all laugh together.

I walk across Lake Michigan painted on our cool concrete floor and watch a mom, dad and son of about 7 years old playing checkers together. Sharing their large wooden table are two moms and three kids playing our popular "Headbandz" game, speaking in German and giggling. On the couch sits a dad strumming the guitar while his daughter strums the ukulele, imitating him.

Shrieks come from the slide as a group slip slides down. As I walk up the stairs, a burst of energy in kid form zooms past me to get to the secret slide door outside to shriek all over again. On the 2nd floor Sam, our Community Programs Specialist, teaches water safety to a group of 40 people – a course that is requirement if you want to borrow our watercrafts through our equipment lending membership benefit. You can see in their eyes the excited anticipation of taking our tandem kayak down to the canoe launch and paddling down river.

On the other end of the 2nd floor, the sound of drums keeps a beat with my steps and I peak into the Camouflage room. A family has rented the room for a few hours to celebrate their son’s 5th birthday party and have a place to share cupcakes together. The kids have found the Center’s drums we use for programs and play a drum song as the adults sing happy birthday.

I head downstairs, passing Lesley, our Community Programs Coordinator, on the way. She sits on the couch with a woman planning a staff lead B’Earthday Party (it sounds like a wooded scavenger hunt and animal room time is in the works). It is now after 2pm and our climbing wall is open for anyone wanting to try out their skills. I step outside and see one of our volunteer belayers guiding a wall climber (“reach your left hand up, your right foot to the right”) as another helps secure the harness on a bouncy kid who can’t hold still, he is so excited.

Opposite the climbing wall, two of our Outdoor Leaders (our high school staff) work together to set up one of our equipment lending tents to dry off. I pause for a minute out of their eyesight to hear them puzzle solve which poles go where and the best placement for ultimate drying out.

As I walk around to the front, a lone frog makes a loud single “gulp” sound from our pond and our resident painted turtle is sunning herself in the hot July sun. The cicadas buzz so loudly their melody intermingles with the harmony of the bees and other pollinators. The front garden, has grown taller than I am and provides a great habitat for these insects.

I step back and pause to look at the building. It almost seems to be a living breathing creature, pulsing with energy of the Sunday. A couple stands on top of the tower holding hands, looking at the woods. Two levels down a man mimics the painted turtle and basks in the sun on our Adirondack chair. Below him, the tent is now set up and drying and the climbing wall people all cheer for someone who gets to the top. Through all the open windows you can hear chatter, laughter and slide shrieks. It’s almost as if the breeze does not go into the building but all the energy wafts out from the windows. A car pulls up to unload a kayak and I know it’s time to head back inside to help out.

The end of the day comes quickly and one by one families disperse and head home. One more slide down, one more look at the lily pads, one more cup of coffee and they are gone. We lock up the building and turn off the lights. It is quiet again and cool inside. Those 5 hours are like fireworks -- loud, bright, quick and energetic. We say our goodbyes to each other. I whisper a good bye to Riverside… and thank her for another beautiful and bright (sometimes crazy) Sunday.

MaryBeth Kressin

MaryBeth Kressin

MaryBeth Kressin is the Facility Rental Coordinator for all three branches and part of the Visitor Services Team. When she is not working hard booking your party, setting up for your wedding, giving tours or helping at the front desk you can find her biking, cooking, reading in her garden or helping her husband renovate their house. She loves being outside, feels passionately about recycling and animals and is honored to be part of the Urban Ecology Center.

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