After Gov. Brian Kemp’s shelter-in-place order expired for most Georgians, area park officials are fine-tuning their systems’ reopening timelines. While Cartersville’s recreational facilities will open Monday, others will be later this month or early June.
“The parks will be reopened on Monday, May 11, from 8 a.m.-8 p.m.,” said Tom Gilliam, director of the Cartersville Parks and Recreation Department. “This includes all pocket parks and batting cages. The main factor to consider in opening the parks is the gathering number, which as of today is still at no more than 10 people.”
Covering 750 acres, Cartersville’s park system encompasses nine parks, which includes pocket parks, one gymnasium, a gymnastics center and two spaces for rental. Cartersville also features eight trails, totaling 17.07 miles.
“Upon learning of the spread of COVID-19 here in Bartow County, on March 13, 2020, it was decided to close all parks and cease all programming, rentals, special events and tournaments indefinitely,” Gilliam said. “People could still access our trails but were not allowed to enter into the parks with vehicles or use the fields, batting cages, outdoor tennis or basketball courts, or any facilities.”
Also springing back to life soon will be some of Bartow County’s offerings.
“We are planning to open up playgrounds after the governor's order expires May 13 and we plan, right now, to open the rest as of June 1,” said Bartow County Administrator Peter Olson, referring to Kemp’s state of emergency. “We also will be getting some baseball organized for June, and resuming other activities, on a more limited scope than previous summers as we ramp up. For example, there will be a more limited summer camp season offered.”
Following “the guidance and recommendations of the state and the CDC,” he shared the county’s walking trails and parking areas remained open during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as some boat ramps and camping areas. However, to maintain social distancing measures, organized sports were canceled and group spaces — such as football fields, playgrounds and basketball courts — were closed.
“We made the decision to close senior centers and organized recreational activities on March 13,” Olson said. “We did not initially close the outdoor facilities, like playgrounds and basketball courts, but within a week we observed persons not following social distancing and so we were forced to close those.
“We also closed some campsites to increase spacing between campsites that remained open. We also prohibited visitors and groups of over four at the campgrounds.”
For future updates, Olson recommends area residents visit www.bartowga.org, then click on Bartow County Parks and Recreation’s page.
“We appreciate the citizens' patience in this unprecedented time,” Olson said. “We have tried to balance keeping some recreational activities available while also working to keep everyone safe by following state and CDC guidelines. As we open up, if anyone is still fearful of exposure, they certainly have the choice not to participate or visit our facilities.”
While trails at the city of Euharlee’s Joe Cowan and Osborne parks have remained accessible during the COVID-19 crisis, some of its facilities will be reopening to the public at the close of May.
“Right now, what we’re looking at as long as everything stays stable, is at the end of May opening basketball courts and tennis courts and one restroom at Joe Cowan,” Euharlee Parks Supervisor Donnie Varvel said, noting announcements will be made on the city’s Facebook page. “It would be limited to 10 people [on the] basketball courts, 10 people/tennis court.
“… At Osborne, we will have the basketball courts and tennis courts open over there also at the end of May and the small restrooms over there open. At Osborne, it is so hard to control that playground because it is out in the open, where at Joe Cowan we can lock gates and keep people from that playground. As far as I know, right now we probably won’t open playgrounds until either the first week of June or the second [week].”
At this point, Varvel also shared he is considering opening the baseball fields, which are utilized as rental spaces for travel teams, at both parks at the beginning of June.
“I have a lot of teams that are contacting me, wondering when we’re going to open back up, [so] they can practice,” he said. “It’s looking like the first week of June that we’re going to open the actual baseball fields up too to where they can practice,” he said, adding an individual will be present to monitor social distancing guidelines.
Looking to the near future, Varvel added, “Hopefully, things will stabilize, to where we can start reopening and getting back to what you would call ‘normal.’”