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City parks open to public

Cornell city-owned parks have reopened for public use, after the governor’s Safer at Home order was overturned in May. All parks and playgrounds were closed in March, after concerns hit of spreading the COVID-19 virus.

The Building, Parks and Recreation Committee met May 19, to discuss how the parks’ opening would look. Dave DeJongh, city administrator, said Cornell needed to get the county’s perspective, before opening.

“We kind of rely on what the county’s looking at doing, because we’ve got to follow those steps, as I understand,” said DeJongh.

DeJongh says the city has not only a regulatory issue, but also a proprietary issue, and that they have a responsibility to ensure safety if a large party would be held at the Mill Yard Pavilion.

“You do not have to open up if you don’t want to…it’s up to you,” said Jim Koehler, Chippewa County environmental health coordinator.

Koehler says he is on board with the use of playgrounds, if they are sanitized regularly, as well as posting signs in pavilions/ bathrooms, asking people to use extra hand-washing and sanitary measures.

“We don’t have an ordinance on our books that would support a health order at this point for Chippewa County,” said Koehler.

Floyd Hickethier, committee and council member, mentioned he is concerned how they can keep kids social distancing when on the playground. Koehler said other than signs, it’s hard to make kids understand the social distancing guidelines.

DeJongh asked Koehler if there is any word on how long the COVID-19 virus stays on surfaces. Koehler said humidity and sunshine are all aspects to take into account, and that’s hard to say how long the surfaces remain contaminated.

“Luckily, the kids are not typically the carriers or getting it as prevalently as an older population would be,” he said.

Committee chair and council member Ashley Carothers, said she wanted to see the city open their public bathrooms and playgrounds. Carothers said kids have been cooped up inside for some time and that parents are taking them to stores, so it’s up to parents’ discretion to let their children play in public spaces.

“I see both sides of someone potentially getting sick and spreading it,” said Carothers, “but I also see the mental health aspect of it, too.”

Koehler says it’s unlikely any strict guidelines will be handed out from the health department, except for large gatherings. With that in mind, he said he didn’t see why Cornell’s city parks couldn’t open, to which the committee agreed.

“We look at it if we promote it safely, do our part to keep things clean, we can do it as safe as possible,” said Koehler. “Once you open that door, it’s hard to close it again.”