ST. ANN, Mo. — St. Ann Parks and Recreation Department was forced to cancel its six-week summer camp program due to staffing shortages.

“Parents use this for daycare,” said St. Ann Parks and Recreation director Tim Younker. “We couldn’t get it staffed. The pandemic really hurt us not having camp for two years. We lost our whole staff except for one person.”

Younker said this was a difficult decision to have to make, but they had no other option. It takes about 15 to 18 counselors and directors to run the summer camp, which is six weeks long, and for kids ages 6 to 12.

Younker said he has been referring parents to nearby summer camps at other municipalities. 

“I know that these people have been looking for day camps since February. So for us to not put that forward for them, they are used to having it. I know they are scrambling right now for places to put their kids,” Ward 2 Alderwoman Amy Poelker in St. Ann said.

Younker said despite going to local high schools and colleges to try and recruit people, they did not even get enough applications to fill the open spots. This is the third year the city has had to cancel camp.

“If COVID did not happen, we would be having camp,” Younker said.

Now, he is already planning to make sure camp is not canceled for the fourth year in a row.

“It’s going to be tough next year, it really is. It was tough this year, and we’re just going to have to think outside the box, see what we can do to entice employees,” Younker said. “If we have to pay a little bit more to get the employees to staff this, we might have to raise the rate and pass that along to the families.”

Younker said the cost is between $250 to $350 for residents and non-residents respectively, but the cost typically goes directly back to paying for staff and activities. So the city will likely not be impacted by the loss of revenue.

Younker said he is in the works with a nearby community to try and hold a half-day one-week camp at the end of the summer. So some kids can still get the experience, but they are still in the planning stages.