City eyes plans to reopen parks

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Plans are in the works to officially open city parks by the time local children are on spring recess from school, which starts Friday, April 2.

Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo said the state released official COVID-19 guidelines for reopening outdoor facilities over the weekend, and she and Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri are reviewing those guidelines and coming up with a plan to submit to the county Health Department for both cities.

“We are required to alert the county health department for a plan, and we’re working on that plan,” Izzo said Tuesday.

Izzo added that she and Palmieri — as members of the Mohawk Valley Control Group — have been meeting from day one of the pandemic to coordinate their efforts, including what to close in their municipalities and then what to re-open and how as restrictions lessen. 

Further details about the guidelines for reopening outdoor facilities will be made available soon, Izzo said.

“The nice weather is making a difference and just over the weekend, the state released guidance for outdoor facilities.  We’re reading that guidance now and working on a plan,” said Izzo.  Rome and Utica will make an announcement soon.

Parks are “basically open now,” Izzo said, and people can use such things as playground equipment, walking trails and other open areas.

Some parts of the facilities remain off limits; the city removed basketball backboards and rims in some parks or boarded them up in others last spring — and they have not yet been authorized to return to service.

Over the weekend, the city skateboard park and other facilities were packed with youths out enjoying the sunshine and unseasonably mild temperatures, but many were seen not wearing masks.

City Parks and Recreation Director James Korpela said city officials are aware of the problem, and mitigating the issue will be part of the parks’ reopening plan.

“We will have plans that will be put in place, but nothing is finalized yet,” he said.

Korpela said tennis nets are now up at the city parks with courts, but there is a hold on putting up any basketball hoops until the health department gives the OK.

As for kids not wearing masks, “We certainly can’t put attendants at the parks 24 hours a day, but we will put signage at the parks reminding people that they need to be cautious about mitigating the virus, so we’ll put instructions there,” said Izzo. “All those things we’re working on.”

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