Jasper recreation attendance recovering from COVID-19


JASPER — Although some areas are still struggling to recover from COVID-19, many Jasper parks and recreation activities are beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels or better.

Leaders of several Jasper recreational activities, such as the Older Americans Center, Buffalo Trace Golf Course, the Spirit of Jasper train depot and the Jasper Municipal Swimming Pool all gave updates to the Jasper Park Board at a Tuesday meeting.

Older American Center numbers are almost back to pre-pandemic levels, Director Carie Dick said.

“Things are kicking for us,” she said. “We’re getting more out and about, and they’ve had a great time just getting back out to socialize with each other.”

The center had 486 more visitors in June than in May. Almost every activity, from water aerobics to catering, have returned and are seeing more participants now that vaccinations are widely available. The center does not require visitors to be vaccinated or masked in most situations but is staying in touch with other nearby senior centers to make sure they are following safe protocols.

Some activities, such as bingo and field trips, have not yet returned due to COVID-19 safety. This means that numbers are still struggling in these areas.

“I would say we’re getting maybe 75, 80% back to normal,” Dick said. “Some people aren’t going to come back … but we get everything back and I think we’ll start seeing more of our regular numbers.”

Buffalo Trace Golf Course, however, is almost seeing more visitors than ever before. The only time in recent years that the course was more popular was last summer during the pandemic, when an activity such as golf was one of the only recreational options available.

“It has been extremely busy,” Manager Kurt Uebelhor said. “Everything is going well.”

Sales in June reached $78,389.85 with 3,137 players. Compared to June 2020, these numbers are slightly down, Uebelhor said.

Some recreational opportunities in Jasper, such as the train, don’t even have 2020 numbers to compare. Although the Spirit of Jasper train rides were canceled last year due to COVID-19, this year’s schedule is officially out with the first trip scheduled for July 24.

Although the train will not travel to Cuzco or French Lick like usual due to track repairs, the train will have dozens of rides through November.

“We’re selling tickets galore,” Recreation Director Janessa Wagner said. “People have really been itching to get out.”

The train schedule can be viewed and tickets can be purchased at https://spiritofjaspertrain.com/.

The Jasper Municipal Swimming Pool, although it was able to stay open in summer 2020, is seeing more visitors than last year despite unseasonably rainy weather.

Swim lessons have returned, and in the month of July alone, at least six parties are booked at the pool. Last summer, there were maybe two the entire summer, Wagner said. The Dubois County Pride event, which took place in late June, had 260 swimmers at the pool.

“We’re pretty pleased with how well things are going,” she said. “Even on rainy days we still have people.”

The park board also:

• Heard that Buffalo Trace’s website is now active at https://www.buffalotracegolfcourse.com/. Both members and non-members can book tee times through the website.

• Accepted a contract for internet service for Buffalo Trace.

• Heard that the 2022 park budget will be brought to the Jasper Common Council for final approval in August.

• Gave permission to hire independently contracted bartenders for the Spirit of Jasper train.

• Approved a one-year railway services agreement for the Spirit of Jasper train.

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