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Ely adjusts park and beach rules in response to COVID-19

Keith Vandervort
Posted 5/21/20

ELY – Council members this week agreed with recommendations from the Parks and Recreation Committee and approved various changes to city park services and activities in response to the …

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Ely adjusts park and beach rules in response to COVID-19

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ELY – Council members this week agreed with recommendations from the Parks and Recreation Committee and approved various changes to city park services and activities in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Council members again met via social media and took actions on a brief agenda in about 30 minutes.
The city’s Park and Rec group met Monday night to deal with a number of issues prior to the Memorial Day weekend. Chair Heidi Omerza’s first motion for action involved the opening of the city’s bathrooms, picnic areas, beach and skate park facilities, and to keep the playground areas open for the summer.
A webinar hosted by the League of Minnesota Cities provided some guidance on how Ely officials could proceed during the COVID-19 health situation, Omerza said.
“Cities are responding from one end to the other and basically, we’re using a lot of common sense on this,” she said.
An abundance of signage at city facilities is warning users to “play at your own risk” as park benches, picnic tables, playground structures and other surfaces will not be cleaned by park crews.
“We know people will use common sense and will use their own judgment,” she said.
Clerk-Treasurer Harold Langowski said that signs are already posted, especially at the playgrounds.
“We do not sanitize playground equipment,” he said.
Bathrooms, which will be open by June 1, will be cleaned and sanitized every day and will be open every day.
“We plan to be cleaning them every day, even weekends, and that will obviously result in some overtime, but I think it is important to have them open on weekends during the summer,” he said.
At Semer’s Beach, the swimming dock will be installed and the picnic pavilion will be available for use.
“Obviously, we will not be sanitizing every table or bench in our parks,” Langowski said, “and we will post that. Users will need to use their best judgment. Stick together as a family unit. Don’t gather with more than 10 people. Practice social distancing.”
For now, the water is not turned on at the parks and cemetery, according to Langowski. “Just last week, we had low temperatures in the teens and have not dealt with the annual water leaks we get when we do turn the water on,” he said. “The cemetery is the biggest area with the most leaks and will be the last area to have water available.”
Drinking fountains will not be available this summer, he added.
“Outside water spigots will also not be turned on this summer. We are not able to sanitize these, and to use them without that assurance would be a mistake,” he said.
On the Park and Recreation Committee’s recommendation, no pavilion or picnic shelter rental reservations will be allowed at this time.
“There have been a lot of requests for rentals, and with the current restrictions, we don’t see how we can keep people safe,” Omerza said. The issue will be revisited after July 1. “There are no rentals now and any (grad) parties and such have been pushed back to July or August,” she said.
The Farmers Market in Whiteside Park is planning to be open again on Tuesdays starting June 2.
“They are considered an essential service and have their (safety) precautions in place,” Omerza said.
The city softball fields will be closed for the summer and no softball league will be conducted this year.
Council members also approved a story walk event on the Trezona Trail, hosted by the Ely Public Library, to be held in late June.
The Ely City Band is taking this summer off, according to director Sarah Mason. “I am incredibly grateful for the music we have made together in past summers and look forward to being together again next year,” she said on a social media post.

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