Municipalities modify summer programs, pool rules to comply with COVID-19 recommendations

By KATE COIL
TML Communications Specialist

Many Tennessee municipalities have struggled with the decision over whether or not to open playgrounds, splash pads, swimming pools, and hold regular summer events like outdoor concerts, movies in the park, and summer camps.
As a result, many are finding new ways of holding traditional summer activities as well as coming up with new summer activities that meet health and safety criteria.
The city of Bristol made the difficult decision to close its city pool at the Haynesfield Aquatic Center for the 2020 summer season as well as cancel two nature-based summer camps often offered through the park department. Bristol Director of Parks and Recreation Terry Napier announced paddle boats at Steele Creek Park and the small train at Steele Creek Park will also not be operating this year.
“We’re continuing to follow the guidance of regional health leaders and base our decisions on what is in the best interest of our community,” Napier said.
In the meantime, the city’s 30 parks and Steele Creek Golf Course remain open to the public with the city’s splash pad, golf cart rentals, and amenities such as pavilions, playgrounds, and sport facilities closed for public safety.
The city of Kingsport began a phased reopening of its Kingsport Aquatic Center on May 18 with changes to comply with Tennessee Pledge and following guidelines set out by state and federal health authorities. Changes included new hours and Sunday closures for deep cleaning as well as restrictions on the number of people allowed in the pool. Guests are also encouraged to wear masks while in the pool and locker rooms are closed to the public.
While the Kingsport Parks and Recreation Department decided to cancel the city’s regular summer day camp programs for kids and the annual Bays Mountain summer camp due to safety reasons, the department has found a different way to bring summer fun to the city’s youth.
“We realize a lot of kids look forward to summer camp with us every year and we know it is always important to engage in mental and physical activities,” said Parks and Recreation Program Administrator Renee Ensor. “We are excited to offer some new family-oriented programs this year, which provide a variety of leisure time choices.”
One program is the summer program in a box that provides six-themed weeks of activities with related games and crafts as well as a t-shirt, water bottle, sunglasses, and other fun activities. Kids can then participate on a Zoom call with other “campers” and parks and recreation staff to show off what they have been doing throughout the week.
Children can also participate in the city’s Travel Trainer program, where parks and recreation staffers will venture to each community in the city and bring simple fitness and instruction equipment with them. Additionally, programs for disc golf, archery, tennis, walking, cornhole, nutrition, and health and wellness are planned for later in the summer.
The department is also bringing residents together virtually with NBA 2K video game tournament for kids age 8 to 12 and Fortnite Fridays, where parks and rec staff will work with kids 6 to 12 participating in the game.
Knoxville opened its two city pools later in the season than usual and have implemented physical-distancing protocols as well as limits for how many people can be in the pool at one time. Tables and concessions have also been arranged to encourage distancing among patrons. Knoxville’s Augusta Quarry is also open to swimmers with the same rules.
Knoxville parks officials are also holding regularly scheduled summer camps but with more limited space than usual. Tennis and pickleball courts are open, and basketball courts and athletic fields are available for practices and training only. Recreation centers and the Knoxville Arts and Fine Crafts Center are open, but only for scheduled programs. Park restrooms will open later during Phase 2.
Manchester is still holding its annual Summer Day Camp but with restrictions and modifications based on federal and state healthcare guidelines. Children will be assigned to smaller groups with separate meeting areas for each group and required temperature testing each day. Face coverings are required and children can only participate if they were pre-registered. Oak Ridge
The city of Oak Ridge reopened its pool on June 15, later than its usual Memorial Day weekend opening, with restrictions in place. The smaller pool for children will be closed and only 200 people will be allowed in the larger pool at a time. Those who want to guarantee a spot in the pool can reserve a spot in advance. To allow more people access to the pool, there will be time restrictions on reservations. Between each two-hour time slot, the pool will be closed for a deep cleaning.
Families of five or less will be assigned a 10-by-10 square-foot area in the lawn surrounding the pool that will be spaced 6 feet apart from other squares. If a family has more than 5 people, they will be issued a second square. Visitors must also come already dressed as dressing rooms and showers will not be open to the public.
No public or private pool parties will be allowed. The picnic table area will also be closed. Swimming lessons are canceled until further notice. The indoor pool at the Civic Center will remain closed through the summer.
Tullahoma has also announced the plan for opening both its swimming pool and splash pad. The pool will only open for 300 swimmers from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily beginning June 24. The splash pad will be opened on Saturdays and Sundays beginning July 28 through Labor Day. All swimmers will have to be screened in accordance with Tennessee Pledge.
“Splash Island has become an important part of summer life in Tullahoma, and we are pleased and excited to once again offer outdoor water recreation opportunities for 2020 under the Tennessee Pledge,” said Kurt Glick, Tullahoma Parks and Recreation director. “We’re happy to be able to safely provide aquatic services to Tullahoma’s citizens.”
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is also offering a Virtual Summer Camp with an environmental education theme for all K-12 students in June and July through social media.
“We know many young people are being impacted by COVID-19 guidelines and are looking for ways to enjoy their summer,” Kendra Abkowitz, director of TDEC’s Office of Policy and Sustainable Practices, said. “We hope the Virtual Summer Camp will be a way to stay engaged, have fun, and learn about environmental responsibility.”
The camp has daily activities intended for enjoyment and education. Each week, camp students can participate in Make a Difference Mondays, Trash Reduction Tuesdays, Wildlife Wednesdays, Earth Friendly Thursdays and Food Waste Fridays. The activities will utilize TDEC staff, including those from Tennessee State Parks and environmental program areas, as well as feature nonprofits Turnip Green Creative Reuse and Urban Green Lab.
Other activities include virtual hikes, arts and crafts, storybook readings, virtual wildlife presentations, citizen science opportunities, at-home environmental audits, science experiments, and nature activities. The camp is free and no registration is required.
No registration is required. Those interested may engage daily at 10 a.m. on the Office of Policy and Sustainable Practices Facebook page. Activities will later be shared on Instagram and on the Office of Policy and Sustainable Practices web page where parents, students and teachers may access them any time.