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Wright County News

Posted on: June 19, 2020

Parks & Recreation Starting to Ramp Up Summer Programming with Restrictions Lifted

The Wright County Parks & Recreation Department has started offering events and programs after being closed down by COVID-19 in March. Although it had to cancel the Bertram Blast triathlon that was scheduled for Saturday (June 20), the plan is to begin offering more programs in the summer.

The biggest issue Parks & Rec has faced is getting the word out on programs. Because many of the programs were in outdoor settings, when schools and businesses were closed in mid-March, Parks & Rec initially tried to continue offering outdoor activities where possible.

“We held on tight as long as we could at the end of March,” Assistant Parks & Recreation Director Brad Harrington said. “We didn’t want to cancel programs right away, because we wanted to see how things were going to play out and what the guidelines were going to be. We’re behind the 8-ball now as far as advertising our summer programs go, because the guidance has changed about things we can do and can’t do.”

The timing of the stay at home order from the state didn’t impact Parks & Rec programs that much because the slowest time of the year for its programming comes in April and May, so there wasn’t a significant conflict as there would have been if the isolation order had come in the summer, fall or winter.

“We were fortunate because of our weather and the way we schedule programs,” Harrington said. “We usually don’t have outdoor programs in April and May. April is impossible because you don’t know what kind of weather you’re going to get and in May we’re opening our campgrounds and it’s a very busy month for us. We usually don’t schedule anything in the spring until after school ends. At this point, we’ve only cancelled a couple of things.”

As it has been throughout the spring, Wright County parks have been very populated. With so many entertainment/recreation options closed throughout the spring, parks were never shut down and people have been taking advantage of the opportunity to get outdoors and out of forced confinement.

Harrington said the social distancing guidelines have, for the most part, been adhered to. What he has been seeing is small family groups using the parks as a way to get together. Almost all have been honoring social distancing, with one notable exception.

“Our parks have been extremely busy,” Harrington said. “Most people haven’t complained about the parks being too crowded. I’ve noticed family units in small groups and they’re keeping a distance away from another family group. You see these little pockets of people gathered up together. The only people we’ve seen that are defiant of the guidelines are the high school/teenage population. It’s not a judgment against them, it’s just that they’re the one group that has been defiant of the guidelines.”

Wright County Parks & Recreation will officially start its summer programming Saturday in Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park with a pair of events – a guided kayaking tour around the lake and a youth fishing clinic. Harrington said that the schedule of events will start ramping up and that the office is finalizing plans for fall and winter events, which is typical for this time of year.

As always, COVID-19 could put everything on hold like it did in March, but Parks & Rec is moving forward to offer family activities to help provide a respite from the depression caused by being isolated and will continue to keep firming up plans for the rest of 2020 until told otherwise.

“We’ll be scheduling some more events for the summer, but right now we’re looking at scheduling our fall programs,” Harrington said. “We’re not hesitating at all there. We’re planning for the fall and winter at normal pace. Believe it not, this is the time of year that we’re locking in our programs for December and January. There are still a lot of unknowns, but we’re looking at getting our programs back up and running as much as we can with whatever guidelines will be in place at that time.”

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