When shelter in place orders came down in March, the country awkwardly fell in line. No one knew exactly how the coronavirus would attack. About the only thing anyone knew was that no one wanted to become a victim of this often fatal microbe. And while we’re still wary, the three months that have passed have given municipalities the confidence to resume a degree of normalcy.
In Pueblo, the long wait is over at least for the city’s parks and recreation options. “This is a phased opening,” said Steven Meier, Director of Pueblo Parks and Recreation. The city, said Meier, is following the Governor’s guidelines as it prepares for summertime fun.
Golf courses, which had been closed, are now open. The city’s four pools will open on a phased basis. The first on June 15th. If there are no COVID-19 setbacks, softball fields, tennis and basketball courts, playgrounds and dog parks will follow. But, said Meier, everything will be operating on a new normal.
Guidelines for golf courses mean no one can touch the flags and there will be a one-person per cart rule, “unless you’re a family,” he said. Club houses will remain closed but walk-up concessions will be available. All water on the course---for drinking or ball washing---has been removed.
“Ever since COVID-19 came about, we’ve been putting plans together,” said Meier. “It’s important for the community to be able to get out and let the kids just be kids.” People need to get outside and “providing these programs and outlets allows kids to “get out and be rambunctious,” adding, it’s important for both physical and mental health.
Pueblo’s City Park will be the first pool to open and it will serve as a model for opening up the other pools. Club swimmers will be the first group allowed into the pool. “Chlorine is a natural cleaner,” said Meier, referring to the common method of keeping pool water safe. Swimming masks will be required. Swimmers will still have to maintain social distance out of the water. Lifeguards will monitor distances. At present, plans are to have all pools open by July 3rd. Private pools may open, but are still required to operate under the Governor’s guidelines.
While city offices remain operating at 50 percent levels, parks and recreation workers will be operating at normal levels. The city is in the process of hiring a full contingent of staff to ensure maximum safety and operational readiness. All staff, said Meier, will be fully trained by the end of June.
Because COVID-19 has shown both spikes and dips, Meier said that all facets of parks and recreation will be closely monitored. “If we get a spike and the health department says our numbers are going up,” he said, he’ll move accordingly. The final decision will be left to state and local health officials whether to remain open or close things down.
“We’ve had to rethink everything, making sure we’re doing our best,” said Meier. “It’s going to be a challenge, but we think we have good plans in place.”