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Austin offers free alternative to summer camps

Summer camps can be budget breakers. It's why the City of Austin is offering a free summer drop-in program at 11 parks. In almost every way it's a typical summer camp. The one difference is that at the Summer Playgrounds Program the fun is free. (CBS Austin)

Summer camps can be budget breakers. It's why the City of Austin is offering a free summer drop-in program at 11 parks. In almost every way it's a typical summer camp. The one difference is that at the Summer Playgrounds Program the fun is free.

"It's a great value program," said Davin Bjornaas a recreation program manager for the Austin Parks and Recreation Department. “Definitely for those who may not have the resources to afford a traditional paid summer camp this kind of fills that gap in the community."

The free camp runs Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This summer there's enough funding to offer the drop-in program at 11 Austin parks, but that number has been much higher.

"We've been in as many as 20 to 30 parks at a time in the summer," said Bjornaas.

The Summer Playgrounds Program could also lose a grant that has allowed it to expand to include four-year-old and five-year-old children. But for this summer, the City of Austin just wants to raise awareness and help as many families as possible.

"Even though we've been operating for 90 years it's still one of the best kept secrets in the department," said Bjornaas,

Registration is open for the free drop-in program that is expected to help 2,000 children have a fun and active summer.

Click here for the online registration and to see which City of Austin parks are offering the program from June 11 to August 3.

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