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UPDATED: Johnson City reopening in phases starting Monday, playgrounds and courts to remain closed

David Floyd • Updated May 29, 2020 at 6:12 PM

After keeping various amenities closed for weeks as a precaution against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Johnson City will start reopening certain facilities in a phased manner on Monday.

That’s when the city will reopen the Freedom Hall Pool by reservation only for laps and team practices. The city will also reopen restrooms at its parks and the batting cages at Winged Deer Park. In addition, the city will resume pavilion reservations for groups of 50 or less. Little League and Babe Ruth baseball for participants within the Tri-Cities will also return for league play only.

On June 8, the Langston Centre, Carver Recreation Center and administrative and athletic offices at Winged Deer Park will reopen, but basketball games will not be allowed at Carver Recreation.

City Hall, which closed to the public on March 23, will also reopen on June 8. Screening measures and temperature checks will be in place at these facilities, and masks will be required.

City officials anticipate individuals will likely be able to continue making payments at the drive-thru service at 106 Gray Commons Circle through June, but they also continue to encourage residents to use online and autodraft options.

City Hall’s finance lobby is undergoing construction and will remain closed for now.

Until further notice, the Memorial Park Community Center, playgrounds, athletic tournaments, outdoor basketball courts and drinking fountains will remain closed. Concert series, the Legion Street Pool and the Rotary Park Splash Pad will remain closed or canceled for the remainder of the season.

About two months ago, shortly after Johnson City announced its safer at home order on March 30, the city removed basketball rims and shut down playgrounds at its parks to enforce social distancing guidelines. Most of the city’s parks and the Pine Oaks Golf Course have remained open, but officials have urged visitors to wear masks and maintain at least six feet of separation between themselves and others.

At the Freedom Hall Pool, laps will be limited to one person per lane. Swimmers will be able to reserve at max three 45-minutes sessions per week. Lane entry and exit will be staggered, and restroom access will be limited to one person at a time. No locker room access will be available.

The city said swimmers should arrive in their bathing suits and be prepared to leave the facility immediately after their swim session ends. Screening measures such as temperature checks will be in place.

The city’s facilities department has also been installing permanent and temporary screens at Carver Recreation Center, the Langston Centre and in the city’s administrative offices to help encourage social distancing.

In a press release Friday, the city said it will continue to follow guidelines provided by Gov. Bill Lee, his economic recovery group and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The city said activities and services that involve a lower risk of COVID-19 transmission will open earlier, and decisions about openings will be influenced by public health metrics.

As the city reopens facilities, one challenge officials are grappling with is a lack of temporary help. At this time of year, Assistant City Manager Charlie Stahl said the parks and recreation department would normally have about 150 temporary support personnel on the city’s payroll. Today, the city has 10.

“Those people are in every facet of the park system — maintenance, programming, aquatics, athletics, community centers,” Stahl said. “Those people have not been hired back, and they weren’t hired back because we had no work for them because everything was closed down.”

Many of the city’s full-time personnel are now performing those tasks. Stahl anticipates the rehiring process could be slow because the city is unsure about the availability of these personnel, and based on the governor’s orders and CDC guidelines, some of those functions likely won’t be filled at this time.

Looking to guidelines from Gov. Bill Lee’s office and the CDC, Stahl said the city is continuing to encourage residents to adhere to social distancing practices.

Previously reported:

Johnson City will begin a multi-phased approach to reopening city facilities starting Monday, June 1.

In a news release, city officials said the goal of the phased reopening is to safely allow activities to resume while mitigating the risk of new COVID-19 cases.

The City will continue to follow guidelines and recommendations provided by Gov. Bill Lee and his economic recovery group as well as the CDC and public health officials. Certain services and activities with a lower risk of COVID-19 transmission will open in earlier phases. Decisions and timing of openings will be influenced by public health metrics.

“Our residents and business owners have made a tremendous sacrifice during this extremely challenging time, and those efforts have not gone unnoticed,” City Manager Pete Peterson said in the news release. “It’s clear that our citizens’ commitment to complying with Safer at Home Orders, social distancing, practicing good hygiene, and wearing masks has put us in a much safer position than we were in several months ago. We have undoubtedly slowed the spread of COVID-19 in our community and saved many lives. Continuing these precautions as we reopen is imperative to keeping transmission rates low.”

Parks and Recreation

As of June 1, the following Parks and Recreation activities will resume:

— Pavilion reservations for groups of 50 or less. Social distancing guidelines must be followed.

— Park restrooms will reopen. Restrooms will be disinfected once daily.

— Freedom Hall Pool will be open by reservation only for lap swimming and team practice. Lap swim is limited to one person per lane with swimmers able to reserve a maximum of three sessions per week, each for 45 minutes. Lane entry/exit will be staggered. Restroom access will be limited to one person at a time and no locker room access will be available. Swimmers should come in their bathing suit ready to swim and be prepared to dry off and leave the facility immediately following their scheduled swim session. Screening measures, including temperature checks, will be in place. For more information or to reserve a swim session, please call 423-461-4872.

— Little League and Babe Ruth baseball will resume for participants within the Tri-Cities area for league play only. Guidelines set forth by those organizations must be adhered to.

— Batting cages at Winged Deer Park will reopen.

Beginning June 8:

— The Administrative and Athletic offices at Winged Deer Park will reopen.

— Carver Recreation Center will reopen. Basketball games will not be permitted.

— Langston Centre will reopen.

— Screening measures, including temperature checks, will be in place at these facilities and masks will be required.

The following will remain closed or suspended until further notice, per state/CDC guidelines:

— Memorial Park Community Center

— Contact sports as defined by the state

— Playgrounds

— Athletic tournaments

— Outdoor basketball courts

— Drinking fountains

The following are closed/canceled for the season:

— Legion Street Pool

— Rotary Park Splash Pad

— Concert series

As a reminder, all parks as well as tennis, pickleball and volleyball courts are open, as is Pine Oaks Golf Course. While contact sports are prohibited, training and other activities that do not involve close contact with others are permitted. Guidelines for all facilities will be posted, and adherence is mandatory.

For questions about Parks and Recreation facilities, grounds and programming call 423-283-5815.

City Hall

City Hall (including Police Records) will reopen June 8, with the exception of the Finance lobby, which is under construction. Screening measures, including temperature checks, will be in place at these facilities and masks will be required.

Transit

The Transit lobby will remain closed through June. Transit continues to offer free rides to patrons wearing masks.

For questions regarding the reopening process, call 423-434-6021.