Park board recommends no summer ball, pool

Parent Category: News Category: Cuba News Written by Rob Viehman Hits: 1713

    During a special meeting held Monday afternoon at city hall, Cuba’s Park Board unanimously approved a recommendation that—given the state’s ongoing social distancing guidelines—the city not open the municipal pool or allow T-ball, softball, and baseball to be played in the city’s parks this summer. The city council is expected to give final approval to the measure on Tuesday.

    “Does this suck for our kids? It really, really does,” said Park Board Chairman Rodger Bridgeman. “I hope this can pass and, in the fall, we can look at doing some things in the parks.”
    The park board met Monday at the request of Mayor Ray Mortimeyer, who was looking for some direction on how to plan for reopening the city’s parks before Tuesday’s scheduled city council meeting. The city’s parks and playgrounds remain closed, except for Hood Park that is open for walking with no use of playground equipment.
    “We need to decide whether to extend the (city’s) emergency to the end of May,” Mortimeyer told the Park Board, “so we need to decide about opening Recklein, the parks, the pool, if we’ll have summer ball. The council meetings will still be closed to the public, we can do that, but I need to bring info to the council on how to proceed.”
    Aldermen Kevin Copling and Sam Black, who serve on the council’s park committee, were also in attendance.
    After the mayor’s comments, the board reviewed guidelines recently released by the Crawford County Health Department about reopening parks, summer sports programs, and public swimming pools. The directive noted cities can take steps to protect public health as long as they are not less restrictive than those established by the state and county.
    Health Department Administrator Honor Evans noted in the guidelines that while outdoor activities—including walking, running, hiking, biking, and spending time with household members outside—can be done safely, it is also important to use social distancing and to avoid groups that do not allow for physical distancing. She recommended any summer activities be adjusted to mitigate the risks of transmitting COVID-19 to participants, spectators, and staff.
    Specifically, Evans recommended that, as long as state social distancing guidelines are in place, which they are through the end of May, people don’t use playgrounds, participate in organized team activities or sport, or use water playgrounds or water parks. Evans did say that swimming pools could be used, as long as at least six feet is kept between swimmers and proper sanitizing is done at the facility.
    Bridgeman told the board he had been in discussions with the various groups that run youth sports programs in the city and most had expressed concerns about beginning their seasons. Specifically, he said, the Cuba Ball Program was not looking to do games this summer because the volunteers don’t feel they can monitor the kids, maintain social distancing, and keep bathrooms clean.
    “It’s totally impossible to do with a volunteer staff,” said Bridgeman. “Also, the programs run off sponsorships and now is not a good time to be seeking sponsorships. It’s not good for the kids, we understand that, but how can you sanitize the ball, bats, and helmets, and keep kids away from each other when they are playing?”
    Youth football and soccer are still planning for a 2020 season, but both sports begin in the fall, so decisions about those will be made later. Bridgeman also mentioned the Crawford County Fair, which is held at Hood Park, saying officials are still undecided about it and will have to see what social distancing measures are in place later in the summer in Cuba. The fair is scheduled for July 7-11.
    “I fear we are going right back into the frying pan and not taking the precautions we will need to be taking,” Bridgeman told the board. “We have to think about the best interest of the community, our kids, and everyone involved.”
    In addressing the pool, Bridgeman said the city is about six weeks behind schedule in doing what would normally be done to get the facility open. They have not hired lifeguards and have no way to certify them as the Red Cross has suspended lifeguard training until further notice.
    “We can’t open and operated with two certified lifeguards,” Bridgeman said, “and I don’t feel we can ask high school kids to monitor patrons and keep surfaces sanitized. I don’t see how we can open it.”
    Bridgeman noted that, if the pool did not open, it would allow for a long list of work that needs to be done at the facility to be completed this summer. The board plans to meet in the future to work on a 2020-21 budget, which will include extensive maintenance plans.
    “The (pool) season will be a loss for our kids, but we can turn it into a positive by fixing some of the things that need to be fixed,” Bridgeman said.
    The board voted unanimously to recommend to the city council that the pool not be opened this summer or have summer ball and that parks and playgrounds remained closed until statewide social distancing guidelines are lifted. The council will take up the matter during its meeting on Tuesday, May 5.