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Local Parks and Rec departments moving forward with reopening

Tanner Cook • Jun 28, 2020 at 10:00 AM

Summer is here, and parks are starting to reopen in Tennessee. 

Locally, some parks have been open throughout the novel coronavirus pandemic. The parks that were closed are starting to let others in with limited capacity and adhering to social-distancing protocols. 

FOR JOHNSON CITY

In Johnson City, all the youth soccer, girls T-ball and girls softball programs were canceled. 

On June 1, Johnson City began a multi-staged reopening of facilities with provisions and guidelines set by Gov. Bill Lee in mind. 

The following activities have resumed:

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

• Park restrooms have reopened. Restrooms are disinfected once daily.

• Freedom Hall Pool has opened 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, 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 followed.

• Batting cages at Winged Deer Park have reopened.

• The Administrative and Athletic offices at Winged Deer Park have reopened.

• Carver Recreation Center will reopen. Basketball games will not be permitted, however.

• The Langston Centre has reopened.

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

Some facilities and activities have been suspended indefinitely:

• Memorial Park Community Center

• Contact sports as defined by the state

• Playgrounds

• Athletic tournaments

• Outdoor basketball courts

• Drinking fountains

The Legion Street Pool, Rotary Park Splash Pad and the Concert series have all been either canceled or closed for the summer. 

IN KINGSPORT

Also on June 1, Kingsport began a multi-phased reopening plan with the Parks and Recreation department offices and rentals resuming with limited capacity and social distancing guidelines.

Most parks along with the Kingsport Greenbelt have remained open to the public during the closure. All city playgrounds are open and the Scott Adams Skate Park is open. 

The following are closed until further notice:

• Riverview Splash Pad

• Outdoor Basketball Courts

• Indoor Gymnasiums

• Athletic Ball Fields (including Brickyard Park, Domtar Park, and Eastman Park at Horse Creek)

• Lynn View Community Center

• Centennial Park is open and so is the restroom facility, but the water fountain is still turned off. 

MOVING FORWARD

“I’ve been hosting a weekly conference call with our area parks and recreation people discussing how we are to implement these social distancing guidelines going forward and it has actually gone quite well,” Johnson City Parks and Rec director James Ellis said. 

“As an experiment this past weekend, we opened up three of our fields at Winged Deer for a baseball tournament with social distancing guidelines and it went well. 

“We have to comply with all of the guidelines set forth by the city, the governor and the CDC, so we have a lot to follow.”

Ellis said that all of the hiking and biking trails have been open from the beginning and the local Little League baseball has resumed practicing.

“So far, everything is going fine and we haven’t encountered anything drastic yet,” he said. “Our fall programs are still being staffed at this point as if they are continuing and hopefully they will go on as scheduled, but you can never predict what is going to happen.”

“Right now, we’ve implemented some social distancing guidelines at the parks like Brickyard and Domtar of no tents behind home plate or the high-congestion areas,” said Kingsport Parks and Rec program director Matthew Elkins. 

“We’re sanitizing the bathrooms every two hours. Except for the classic ballpark staples of popcorn and hot dogs, we’re selling all pre-packaged food. I’ve been at the parks for about five or six hours the last couple of Saturdays and there have not been any issues.”

Added Elkins, “We’re trying our best to keep Domtar and Brickyard at  half-capacity. In July, we’re experimenting and opening a third playing field at Brickyard because it’s more spread out. We’ll see how it goes.”

FALL LEAGUES

As mentioned, contact sports like soccer are suspended until further notices in Johnson City and Kingsport.

“Unfortunately, soccer is one of those contact sports defined by the state,” Ellis said. 

The adult softball league is having signups beginning June 24 and practices are set to begin July 22. Games begin Aug. 19. 

Volleyball — both coed and men’s teams — have early signups beginning July 1 with games beginning Aug. 26. 

For more information like entry fees and other stipulations, visit https://bit.ly/2BHcfxS.

In Kingsport, the youth baseball and softball leagues are scheduled to go off as planned. 

“We’re actually trying to get both our youth and adult softball and baseball leagues to start in mid-July and play until mid-September so that we can allow some time for basketball,” Elkins said. 

“Soccer, meanwhile, has just been allowed to practice so far, but they could form a league in a few days if the governor gave them the green light.”

The adult outdoor volleyball league and tennis lessons have begun in Kingsport as well. 

“Volleyball and tennis have not widely changed at all,” Elkins said. “The only thing that comes into contact multiple times in volleyball is the ball. It’s tough right now because our plans are almost constantly changing, but we’re managing and that’s all we can do right now.”

For more information, visit www.kingsportparksandrec.org. 

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