Easthampton set to reopen parks, playgrounds

  • Owen Tauscher, 4, of Southampton straddles a bump in the road on his new bike during a jaunt around Nonotuck Park with his mother, Julianne Tauscher, younger brother, Lydon, 20 months, and Molly the dog, in May 2019. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Josh Evan, from left, Jack Bacis, Max Burns and Nathan Burns play basketball Thursday, March 26, at Nonotuck Park in Easthampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/16/2020 6:38:19 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Board of Health Chairwoman Maggie Hebert has rescinded the board’s order forbidding the use of a number of outdoor recreation facilities in the city, although some restrictions are still in place.

At the same time, Mayor Nicole LaChapelle issued an order laying out new guidelines for the use of public parks in the city.

The order, issued at the end of March to prevent people congregating during the height of the coronavirus threat, put facilities such as playgrounds, basketball courts, tennis courts and gazebos out of bounds.

“We rescinded the original order to be in line with the state,” said Hebert.

Easthampton Health Agent Bri Eichstaedt said the order was rescinded because safety standards were released by the state for parks and outdoor recreation as part of its Phase II reopening last week.

“Instead of confusing the public, let’s just be in line with the state,” she said.

Public parks, however, are being treated differently.

“We felt like our public space, our public parks, could reopen with some qualifications,” said LaChapelle.

Public parks and playgrounds are set to reopen Monday at 9 a.m., with Nonotuck Park being open Monday through Friday from dawn to dusk moving forward.

Those using the playgrounds are required to sanitize their hands before and after use.

The tennis courts will be open after they’re reconditioned. Picnic site rentals will resume on July 6, although groups will still be limited to 10 people or fewer.

While leagues and sports may resume practices starting Monday, teams must reserve a field in advance, a team representative must submit a roster and sign the COVID-19 guidelines acknowledgment form, and practices must include non-contact drills only. There will also be no games, scrimmages, or tournaments.

Under the guidelines, pools, basketball courts and spray parks will remain closed in public parks, with the courts set to reopen in Phase III of the state’s reopening. All parks and recreation buildings will remain closed, and pavilion rentals are prohibited.

Hebert also partially rescinded the order “Recreational Camps for Children, Public Pools, and City-Owned Parks,” with recreational camps for children still closed in the city.

“We just didn’t feel comfortable with having camps open,” said Hebert.

She questioned how children could maintain COVID-19 precautions while still having a camp experience.

Last week, Hebert allowed takeout dining to resume in Easthampton and rescinded the order that stores only sell essential items.

Hebert noted that, as the state reopens, people still must wash their hands, cover their faces and maintain social distancing. Monday, she sent out a message to all committees and boards in the city asking them to remind people at the beginning of any public meeting to do these three things.

“We’re still in a pandemic,” she said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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