Edmonton parents and kids alike will be happy to hear the city’s Green Shack program is back, and even slightly bigger, this summer.

This year, 180 Green Shacks will operate in the city up from 172 in 2013, according to the city.

The program was thrown into jeopardy last summer when the province cancelled its Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP), leaving the Green Shacks short $275,000.

“There was never a concern that the program was on its way out, the challenge was finding enough money to run as many programs as we had,” said Harry Oswin, a director with the Community Services Department.

“The other challenge was that [the program] was being funded through employment grants … and they’re really not meant to fund community recreation programs.”  

That deficit was made up in Dec. 2013, however, when city council put $275,000 back into the program.

Green Shack organizers also asked local community leagues to help out by donating $1,000 to the program.

In the end, more than 100 communities stepped up to chip in, said Oswin.

New program introduced

The city considered neighbourhood needs, the percentage of the local population between 6- and 12-years old, previous Green Shack attendance rates and playground development when selecting which communities got shacks this year.

For those that didn’t qualify this year, the city is also introducing a new, shorter-term program called “Pop Up Play” that Oswin described as “a shorter version of our Green Shack program.”

Unlike the Green Shack, the Pop Up Play programs will only be offered a couple of days a week, with games and activities available for children for a few hours under the coaching of city recreation leaders.

Because it doesn’t require the same degree of set-up and investment as the Green Shack program, the 28 pop-up sites are a relatively inexpensive way to test the waters for new community programming sites, said Oswin.

“If there is a demand for it, we'll be keeping track of that, and when we review programs we'll be looking at Pop Up Play sites as potential sites for Green Shack programs in the future.”

The Green Shacks and Pop Up Play program will start for the summer on July 2.

The program recorded 268,800 individual visits to Green Shack programs last year.