When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, few businesses or operations were immune from closure or significant reduction in what was open and what was closed. From the Minnesota State Fair to schools to sports to concerts, just about every event scheduled after mid-March was postponed or canceled.
The Wright County Parks & Recreation Department wasn’t spared. While the parks have remained open as a recreational outlet for those who were confined under Stay at Home protocol, many of the events that have been a big part of the department were canceled.
That’s about to change. For the first time since late-March, Wright County Parks & Rec will return to something resembling normal, as it will host a pair of events concurrently from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 27 at Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park.
One is a two-hour guided kayaking class conducted by Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center. The other is a two-hour youth fishing clinic conducted by Minnesota Trout Unlimited. While programming has returned, the cloud of COVID-19 still hangs over both events.
“I contacted both companies and told them what we needed from them before we could even say we could do these programs,” Assistant Parks & Recreation Director Brad Harrington said. “Do you plan on keeping social distancing guidelines? How are you going to handle the equipment? The programs are going to look a little different. When we have done kayaking in the past, the goal was to get as many people in kayaks as possible. People were using the same kayaks at different times and sharing life vests. Obviously, we can’t do that this time. The same goes for the fishing clinic because we don’t want a bunch of people out on the fishing pier at the same time, so the plan is to rotate kids with different instructors to keep them in smaller groups to socially distance.”
Both the kayaking class and the fishing clinic will be limited to 15 participants to keep the numbers manageable and maintain social distancing and have single-use with equipment. The cost for kayak class is $10 per person with all equipment provided. The youth fishing clinic has a cost of $5 per child. Pre-registration is required for both, either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (763) 682-7894.
The kayak class has been a program that has been done at Bertram, Schroeder and Collinwood Parks and they have been very successful and well attended. The same is true with the youth fishing clinic. Parks & Rec has worked with the Minnesota Trout Unlimited before and the program has been well received by the kids who take the class.
The programming door hasn’t been kicked open yet, but the return of program offerings is a step in the right direction. It may be a long time until programs fully return to pre-COVID-19 levels, but it is a good start and a move in the right direction.
“We haven’t had a lot of opportunities to do many of the programs that we usually do in the summer,” Harrington said. “But, it’s great to have the parks open and in full operation and getting back to what we like to do – put on programs that the whole family can enjoy. Hopefully, we can get back to something close to our full schedule of events soon.”