MURRAY — Several entities in Kentucky have begun reopening from the COVID-19 pandemic and it appears Murray-Calloway County Parks and Recreation will soon follow this trend.
Monday night, the Murray-Calloway County Park Board authorized Parks Director Ryan Yates to initiate a multi-phase reopening plan that begins June 1. All Parks and Recreation facilities have been closed to the public since late March when the pandemic begin affecting western Kentucky.
This came as board member Paul Rister, who is also Calloway County’s 4th District magistrate, brought a complaint from a constituent who questioned why the Bee Creek soccer complex was still off limits at a time other businesses had reopened. Rister said the constituent had asked, “Why can’t my family go to Bee Creek to kick the ball around?”
“The fortunate thing is I think better days are ahead of us,” said Park Board Chairman Jason Lovett. “It’s been hard on everybody. Did I want to close the park? Absolutely not, but when you looked at the potential of what could happen, it seemed like the best we could do for everybody.”
It looks like Bee Creek will be available quickly.
With Phase 1, Bee Creek opens to informal play only, along with the parking lots of both Central Park and Chestnut Park. The Lions Club Community Skate Park at Central, as well as the Parks and Recreation office at Chestnut, will also reopen, as will the public restrooms at Chestnut. This also will come as staffing is not at full force, with Yates, Activities Director John Gorrell, Maintenance Director Steve Wilhelm and one other employee handling all of the sanitizing operations that will be required at that time.
Yates said the full crew will be deployed about two weeks later.
Phase 2 will be on June 15 with the Four Plex at Central reopening, as well as the pavilions at Chestnut, but those will be limited to small groups of no more than 10 people at a time. Yates also said the Murray-Calloway County Dog Park at Central will reopen, as will the public restrooms at the Four Plex and Bailey Pavilion. This is also when rehearsals at the Playhouse in the Park will resume, also limited to perhaps eight to 10 people at a time. Local sports league can also begin preparing for their seasons and Yates also said he is hoping to design some sports camps for small groups of eight to 10 people.
On July 1, Phase 3 begins with low-impact sports having league games starting play. All pavilions will open to larger groups (50 or less), while concessions will also open. All playgrounds will open, along with any other pubic restrooms that had not been reopened at that point. The basketball courts at Chestnut Park also will reopen, as will PIP, with both of those facilities limited to crowds of 50 or less.
Phase 4 is set for Aug. 1 and will allow special events to once again be hosted in the park. Regional sporting tournaments (for low-impact/low-contact sports only) can also begin, as will league play for local soccer.
The fifth phase will be on Sept. 1 with soccer tournaments for local teams beginning, as well as in-state baseball/softball tournaments and league play for flag football and Murray State intramural sports leagues that are played at the parks.
Phase 6 comes Oct. 1 with open tournaments for baseball/softball and regional soccer tournaments. That will lead to the seventh and final phase on Nov. 1 with in-state tournaments. At this time, guidelines being designed by the Kentucky Recreation and Park Society do not include events involving teams from outside of Kentucky.
“I’ve been working with (Calloway County Health Department Public Health Director) Amy Ferguson and she made about eight recommendations and also gave me a website to use through the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) that is specifically geared toward parks and recreation,” Yates said. “One thing we’ve also been told is we’re going to be sanitizing as much as possible, probably every two hours. Steve is going to use to a device they’re using at the county to sanitize their vehicles, so we’re working with numerous people on this.
“I also want to give a shout out to our local emergency management folks. They’re doing everything they can to help us with what we need to sanitize because we won’t do any of this until we’re stocked and ready to go. We’re making the steps to get there.”
Yates and Gorrell both told board members that all of these steps are closely following the program that has been designed by the office of Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, and emphasized these are subject to change, as decisions in Frankfort seem to change every day.
Yates also told the board about a pair of options he has determined for players ages 3-6 in baseball, softball and T-ball. Basically, the difference in the options is one calls for more camp involvement while the other involves actual league play. One board member was quite vocal in endorsing one of the options.
“I hope we can play league ball,” said Jeremy Bell, who is also a member of the Murray City Council. “As a father of a kid who had to sit at home and lost his entire spring sports season this year (as a Murray High athlete), I really hope we have some league play this year. You’ve got to give these kids something to look forward to.”
“I would love to get a league in place for my son because he’s dying to do something,” Yates said. “The only thing I worry about (with the league play option) is, ‘Would parents allow their children to come out and play?’
Another item of importance for the board Monday was passing the second reading of the Fiscal Year 2021 budget, which needs to be ready by June 30. The budget was passed on its first reading earlier, but it had been amended.
The result is a budget that accounts for a little less than $500,000 and is targeted to be zeroed out with no surplus or deficit. The biggest factor in the change is the fact that the Murray-Calloway County Pool is no longer included. It was closed for this year a few weeks ago after public pools were not mentioned in Beshear’s plans for reopening Kentucky facilities.
Wilhelm said that hiatus for the Murray-Calloway facility — which opened about 45 years ago — will bring problems.
“A year with no water in it means the liner (which has been a major concern) is going to pull away from the sides and it’s going to continue to rip and that’s not going to be good,” he said, referring to one of the satellite pools at the facility that is much smaller than the larger L-shaped pool. “We’re also starting to experience problems with the liner of the big pool starting to pull also.
“But the pump is not going to be able to be turned on, so it’s not going to get lubricated. This is not going to be good for the pool this summer.”
There was positive news with finances. Parks & Recreation had $26,000 available in operations for the month of April and that marks the first time since April 2018 for that much money to be available in that category.”