Spring's arrival brings pollen, shouts and cheers throughout the county as the parks and recreation department gears up for its busiest season.
"In spring sports, we have about 1,900 kids that participate," Greg Hight, parks and recreation director, said.
For spring, T-ball, baseball, softball and spring soccer are the main sports offered for children and teenagers.
Although the department has 18 full-time, 18 part-time and five seasonal employees -- who divide the $923,000 of the department's total $2.1 million budget -- hired to assist with the hectic spring and summer games and increased maintenance, volunteers are a key element in making events happen.
"We've got to have volunteers, and I estimate we have [more than] 500 volunteers in the spring," Hight said. "It takes a lot of help from the community to accomplish all that, especially with that many kids."
For participants, a registration fee is required and varies between $60 to $90 depending on the child's age and desired sport. That fee, Hight said, is not collected as a departmental profit.
"The registration fee goes to help cover the cost of uniforms, officials, the power bill -- it kinda all goes back into the budget to cover up some of this we are spending throughout the season," Hight said. "A lot of people have the conception that recreation makes money. It doesn't make money. It's a service the county offers to the community. We don't take in [a profit]."
While the department has $100,000 designated from the budget for uniforms, more funds could be necessary depending on how many youth wish to participate. This is where the registration fee comes in to play, as well as to cover equipment cost.
"That's [for] our uniforms for all the programs we offer," Hight said. "We're talking about over 4,000 kids we have to armor up, and plus our football equipment, baseball equipment, some of that comes from there."
For families who cannot afford the registration fee, and to allow an equal opportunity for all young people with an interest in activities, scholarships are available.
"The county's always offered scholarships," Hight said. "What we do is, they'll apply for a scholarship here and we take that and send it into indigent care and let them review everything for us. They can get more information and let us know what that family is in particular need of."
Spring registration has ended and practices have begun, but summer offers a new realm for activity seekers.
Summer sports include a second baseball and softball league and various sports camps. There is a possibility that an yet-to-be-named professional soccer athlete may teach a soccer camp this summer and former Olympian softball players will instruct a softball camp.
"We have our sports camps, baseball, about any sports you can think of during the summer and we have different instructors come in," Hight said.
Other sports offered include tennis, cheerleading and football in the fall and basketball in the winter. Age ranges vary depending on the sport as follows:
* Baseball -- 4 to 17
* Softball -- 4 to 18
* Football -- 7 to 12
* Basketball -- 5 to 17
* Soccer -- 4 to 13
The ages cap for soccer and football due to involvement in middle and high school teams. Cheerleading offers an ability for younger girls to sign up to be mascots. An instructional league is offered for basketball before athletes are separated by gender.
For those who are less interested in sports, Camp Bartow will offer a variety of events this year.
"We started Camp Bartow last year and we're going to host it at the old Cass High School this year," Hight said. "We average anywhere from 50 to 60 kids a week in that camp and we hire a camp director and counselors to work that. To me, it was a huge success last year, so we're doing it again this time.
"Last year we had a sports specific camp. This year we're going to make it more games and crafts. We have educational parts [and] maybe the EMS can come in, the health department, sheriff's department, different ones come in every week and try to talk to kids and make them aware of what's going on in the public and try to make it a fun week as possible for them. [Also,] this year, we're looking to extend it and do a special needs camp with Splash Bartow for three days as well."
Registration for Camp Bartow is expected to begin in early April and is designed for children who have started first grade and continues through completion of fifth grade.
Since sports is a main focus for the department, several line items are designated for that purpose. To pay referees and umpires, $72,000 is set aside and $30,000 goes for special program supplies.
"Just like coaches, [officials] apply here," Hight said. "We've had one guy [as an umpire] with us that's probably been here 20 years and then we have these younger guys that come in and they apply. We do a background check for everybody to make sure they've got no big criminal past.
"Special program supplies are usually insurance for teams [or] entrance fees for tournaments anytime we have teams that qualify for a state tournament. We try to help out there and a lot of that comes from there."
General utility bills, combined, make up nearly $200,000 for the parks. Repair and maintenance for the buildings and grounds weighs in at $100,000 for parks, including Hamilton Crossing, Houston Suggs youth facility, Manning Mill park and youth facility, Bartow Carver Park, Gatewood Park, Pine Log Creek walking trail, Spring Bank, Center Community building, Kingston gym and Taylorsville ball field.
"These are the places that we keep up, and in the county, we've got several green space properties in the county we keep up as well," Hight said. "Anytime you're dealing with parks something is going to tear up nightly. Something in one of the restrooms or somebody rips a base up or tears a board off of a building or tears power wires off of fences, something."
Although sports may seem constant, $1,000 is budgeted for dues and fees and another $500 for training.
"Those are our Georgia Parks and Recreation Association fees," Hight said. "For employees, we stay up-to-date with what's going on with new rules and regulations from the GRPA."
Gasoline and diesel costs are set at $140,000 to be divided between vehicles as well as lawn mowers. Travel funds -- $1,500 -- can go for teams, but it also can be designated for an employee who drives a department vehicle to a tournament.
Though the several parks require continued maintenance and upkeep, Hight hopes to see the department grow.
"Right now we're trying to maintain and we hope to add on somewhere," Hight said. "Maybe a soccer complex and possibly another baseball/softball complex. We are totally full here at Hamilton Crossing and Manning Mill."
For more information on the department as well as registration dates and practice schedules, visit www.bartowga.org, or call 770-387-5149.