At their meeting today, the City Commissioners unanimously voted against staff recommendations to cancel many fall parks and recreation activities to mitigate COVID-19 spread.
The staff recommendations included canceling city-sponsored fall sports like football, volleyball and baseball as well as many holiday and community events.
The Commissioners agreed with the staff recommendation to cancel large special events like the Winter Festival, the Holiday Stroll at Cascades Park, Frenchtown Rising and more.
“I just do not see how we could do Winter Fest, as much as that pains me, but in that scenario we’re talking tens of thousands of people concentrated in Downtown,” Mayor John Dailey said.
However, going against staff recommendations, the Commissioners voted to host youth and adult sports and open the Meadows Soccer Complex and City-run tennis and pickleball courts.
Dailey expressed strong support for opening City facilities for fall sports.
“At some point, we are going to have to offer the programming that we have, and the responsibility should be on the parents and families to make the appropriate decisions,” Dailey said. “I am a full proponent of our parks and rec sports.”
“I have spoken with hospitals, pediatricians, general physicians that have also stressed some of the studies that are coming out talking about the mental health impacts of COVID on our children and the physical health aspects as well,” he continued.
Commissioner Dianne-Williams Cox made a motion to open up City facilities for fall sports. The motion passed unanimously.
Notably, the City will reserve the right to shut down events if they get too large. Additionally, the City plans to work with private organizations that use its facilities to develop safety plans.
Dailey emphasized that the City will need the community’s cooperation.
“Be safe, be smart, and follow the guidelines that these leagues and the City will create,” he said.
The Commissioners also passed a motion to create an agreement between the City and the Leon County School District for accommodating swim meets at the Trousdell Aquatics Center.
At this week’s City Commission meeting, following a rise in COVID-19 cases, the Commissioners will weigh reopening parks and recreation facilities for certain activities and events this fall.
The meeting agenda outlines staff recommendations for mitigating the spread of COVID-19, which includes suspending and canceling many parks and recreation activities.
One recommendation is canceling all special events in City parks and properties through the end of the year.
“This would include City events like the Winter Festival, the Holiday Stroll at Cascades Park, Elf Night and Soul Santa along with community events like Frenchtown Rising, the Veterans Day Parade, the DIA Sundown Concert Series and New Year’s Eve events along with other smaller events at various parks and facilities,” staff reports.
Staff also recommends not hosting organized sports at City facilities this fall, including football, cheerleading, volleyball, baseball and softball.
“While modifications can be made in each sport to attempt to mitigate potential exposure risks, by their inherent nature, these sports require close contact and sharing of equipment,” staff reports. “Also, it would not be practical or realistic to offer sports activities without spectators, especially youth sports.”
Additionally, staff recommends suspending consideration of requests to host high school swim meets. Currently, the City has a shortage of lifeguards. Only the Trousdell Aquatics Center is open, and it cannot accommodate high school meets.
“In order to accommodate the request to host these meets, the Trousdell Aquatics Center would have to be closed to the public for a full day for the district meet and for four hours each for eight dual meets, affecting up to 200-plus public lap swimmers and water walkers,” staff reports.
Additional recommendations are keeping the Meadows Soccer Complex closed and allowing use of Forestmeadows and Tom Brown Park tennis and pickleball courts as long as games are spaced out with one empty court in between.