Parks reopen with altered summer plans

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Xaylee Faulkenburg, 7, of Georgetown, leaps in the air to hit an inflatable ball at the splash pad at the Jasper Parklands on Thursday. Faulkenburg is staying with her aunt, Windy Faulkenburg of Huntingburg. Windy, who has been taking care of six children, said they needed a trip outside and it’s getting too hot to be in their yard. “It’s still scary and we’re still worried, bur they’ve got to get outside,” she said.


Local parks will likely be a little less active this summer.

Although park facilities — with the exception of playgrounds — were cleared to reopen last week under Gov. Eric Holcomb’s “Back on Track Indiana” plan, many of the recreation activities local parks host in the summer have been canceled.

Ferdinand will not host its usual summer recreation activities this summer. Park staff would have to drastically change how they operate the programs by having sign-ups and limiting the number of children who can participate, Town Manager Chris James said, which would have added a lot more work for the staff, who are seasonal employees.

“It was just easier to say we’re not going to do it until we get a better handle on social distancing and cleaning the facilities,” James said.

As of now, the town is looking at hiring an outside company to perform deep cleaning as suggested in guidelines from the governor’s office and the Indiana State Department of Health.

Annie Schmitt, 5, of Ireland, plays at the splash pad at Central Green in Jasper on Thursday.

The softball and baseball fields at both the Fifth and 18th street parks remain closed, as do the soccer and football fields at Fifth Street Park. James said town officials chose to keep the ball fields closed until a sanitation plan can be put in place.

But the shelter houses at both Fifth and 18th street parks and the associated restrooms have reopened for groups of 100 people or less, as long as social distancing guidelines are followed. The basketball courts, volleyball pits and horseshoe pits at 18th Street Park have also reopened.

James said the town is also beginning to discuss the traveling tourneys with various sports organizations that usually use the parks later in the summer. As of now, he said it looks like those tourneys will be allowed to happen, but that could change depending on guidelines from the state and decisions at the local level.

“Everything is agreed to with a grain of salt,” James said. “It’s ‘yes, but,’ and the but is if the governor changes anything.”

The City of Huntingburg reopened its parks facilities on May 24 and plans to open the municipal pool and splash pads on June 1. A recreation program that will include yard games at the parks will also begin on June 1, according to social distancing and sanitization guidelines.

The usual camps and other activities will not take place.

The city’s playgrounds will also remain closed due to state guidelines. Parks Director Larry Altstadt said the public has been good so far about staying off the playgrounds, although occasionally people will bypass the caution tape and use the facilities.

Gracie Schmitt, 4, of Ireland, left, Augie Recker, 3, of Jasper, and Gracie's sister, Annie, 5, play at the splash pad at Central Green in Jasper on Thursday. The three kids were with their daycare provider, Marilyn Schnaus of Jasper.

“We just tell them they’re closed, and they understand,” Altstadt said. “They don’t like it, but they’re OK with it.”

Jasper reopened its park facilities on May 24 and is sanitizing daily. The pool and splash pads also reopened.

“They say that’s pretty safe for the kids as long as they social distance,” Parks Director Ken Buck said of the splash pads.

Since the splash pads turn on automatically, users don’t have to touch anything to enjoy them.

Jasper’s parks department also canceled its summer recreation activities, but is working on virtual offerings. The Older Americans Center already posts workout videos regularly, so the summer virtual programming will add to that.

The reopening of park facilities will continue in phase four of the “Back on Track Indiana” plan, which is tentatively set to begin June 14. That’s also when youth and adult recreational games and leagues are allowed to resume. Reopening of playgrounds in the state is to be determined.

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