Park department reflects on unusual year


JASPER — The 2020 annual report for the Jasper Park and Recreation Department was much more sparse than normal years, Recreation Director Janessa Wagner said at a Tuesday Park and Recreation Board meeting.

Although the parks were well used, especially during the summer months when people could safely and comfortably meet outside, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a lot of activities being paused, as well.

Almost all summer programming was canceled besides youth leagues, Wagner said. The report did not include the usual data on the train because it has been shut down. The report also included a new section of data about reservation cancellations for places such as the Jasper Parklands.

“We thought that was important to see how that did affect us and to know that we can make that much more than what our current number was,” Wagner said. “Rentals are picking up again, though, because people are feeling safer about doing things and doing them the right way.”

The municipal swimming pool was able to stay open, which Wagner said the department received plenty of positive feedback about, especially when other public pools in places such as Vincennes closed.

“It was huge for us and huge for the community, and people were coming from everywhere,” she said.

Carrie Dick, director of the Older Americans Center, said the pandemic severely affected the center’s operations. It has been closed since November 2020.

Instead, Community Engagement Coordinator Kaci Wehr has been hosting online exercise classes via Facebook Live and Zoom, which Dick said have garnered participants from more than 30 states and several different countries.

Aside from the lack of activities, 2020 was a hard year for the center because the pandemic has significantly affected many of the seniors both physically and mentally. Dick said she and Wehr regularly check the local obituaries and see people they know.

“We lost a lot of people this year, and it’s been very sad, whether it was COVID or not,” Dick said. “When we do open, it won’t be the same because you’ll miss seeing them every day, and you know where they come in and where they sit, and they’re not going to be there.”

Dick said the center will ideally open again in the coming months, but will still require social distancing, limited class sizes and temperature checks whenever it does happen.

“Not only are we ready to get back, but I know the seniors are, too,” she said. “They need it bad, so we’ve got to get things back for them.”

Wagner said the department registered for virtual town halls this week to collaborate with other departments in Indiana on how to move forward safely during the pandemic.

The board also:

• Approved quotes for fertilizer for the Schroeder Soccer Complex for $3,800, the Jasper Youth Sports Complex for $8,300, the Jasper Parklands for $1,550 and Central Green for $1,225.

• Approved quotes for 40 Buffalo Trace golf carts for $39,400 with trade-ins.

• Heard from local Girl Scout Caroline Kiefner about installing a water bottle filler station at Bohnert Park as part of her Girl Scout Gold Star Project. Caroline said she is going to fundraise $2,000 with help from the Dubois County Community Foundation, and the board approved the installation once the money is raised.

• Gave Assistant Director Rob Gutgsell permission to seek quotes for a new field groomer for the sports complex.

• Gave Gutgsell permission to hire three new seasonal personnel.

• Heard from Shop Manager Kurt Uebelhor that Buffalo Trace has not gotten much business so far this year because of the weather.

• Heard that Director Tom Moorman is working on park inspections.

• Discussed getting rid of permit fees for kayaks at Beaver Lake. This change would require changing the Beaver Lake ordinance and pricing in the city code book, so the board will discuss it further at its next meeting.

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