Staff at the Town of Stettler are carefully monitoring each step of the ‘re-opening’ process in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
This week, a number of re-openings were announced including the conditional opening of Lions Campground, the Stettler Skate Park and all Town of Stettler Sports Fields.
Stalls can be booked through Parks & Leisure Services by calling 403-742-4411.
“Our ability to keep these facilities open will depend on compliance with provincial public health orders,” said CAO Greg Switenky. “We are asking the users of these facilities to practice common sense and assess if a situation is safe to partake in.
“If a facility looks too crowded, please make the choice to come back later.”
All sports fields in the town will remain open for use on a casual basis; the use of these fields for organized sports and functions remains unavailable at this time, noted a release.
“We ask residents to continue to be mindful of seasonal maintenance as Parks and Leisure begin their turf revitalization program, and refrain from using the turf and sports fields while work is being completed.”
The Stettler Skate Park also reopened on May 12th.
When using each of these facilities, the Town asks all users to follow the guidelines recommended by Alberta Health Services, including maintaining a physical distance of two metres between individuals residing in different households, participating only in non-contact, unorganized sport, limiting the number of individuals at each facility to 15 people or less, bringing your own equipment and avoiding activities that require shared equipment and continuously sanitizing your hands.
In the coming weeks, Town of Stettler staff will also be performing inspections and maintenance on playgrounds in preparation for a potential phased reopening.
The timing of this tentative reopening remains under review.
“In most cases, it’s provincial guidance,” said Switenky of the overall re-opening process.
“We are looking at the Stage 3 (elements) that they are authorizing so that we can align with their guidance. There are only so many things that are actually ‘orders’ in there – things such as social distancing, gathering sizes – those types of things.”
Other things, like physical touch points on play structures in playgrounds remain off limits as there just isn’t the staff onhand to continually sanitize it all.
“When it came to the actual sports fields or the green grass around a play structure, municipalities had their own determinations of what they wanted to do with it. We always kept ours open.
“So we are always being very mindful of the leadership and the science that is being shown by (Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health) Dr. Hinshaw. We are trying to align with it all the best we can.”
Essentially, as Switenky pointed out, the public by now knows the basic rules of safety when it comes to staying safe.
“The fact if, we’ve been at this long enough so we should know we need to social distance, we need to clean our hands – those should be ‘givens’.
“(As mentioned) we do still feel that we aren’t ready to open playground structures. We have always differentiated between the playgrounds and the playground structures because the structures have all those touch points,” he explained. “So that’s what we are still a bit leery about.
“If we can’t maintain it to (Hinshaw’s) guidelines – cleaning them after every use – they are going to stay closed,” he said. “We are doing the best we can and we are always trying to err on the side of caution. We are all trying to be serious about the science,” he said, emphasizing the inherent risks involved in swinging ‘the community doors’ open too early on.
Of course, with local businesses, the rules have been more specific in terms of opening dates and procedures.
But there are some unknowns as to how it will all unfold.
“Many of them, although they can open, I’m not sure how many will? We’re going to see over the coming weeks,” he said, adding there are challenges with gradually allowing normal operations to re-start.
For example, many independent small businesses don’t have a specific set of rules from a professional body to follow in these circumstances such as larger organizations have access to.
Meanwhile, Switenky said five summer students have been hired on by the Town, and they’ve been instructed on all the COVID safety protocols as well. As to regular municipal staff, the plan is to have most of them back in full by May 25th.
“We are still playing a little bit of that ‘wait-and-see’ game,” he said, referring to the impact of the long weekend, the inevitable increased travel and jump in interaction amongst the public in general.
But Switenky is confident that things are moving in the right direction.
“The fact is our actions hopefully have helped to make the difference in ‘flattening the curve’,” he said. It’s been an unprecedented time in society with, at times, no clear guidebook on how to proceed in some cases.
“We will never truly know, but we have to believe that what we did was the right thing.”