Parks and recreation largely resumes

Peggy Baumgartner, from left, Sarah Baumgartner, Leo Baumgartner and Greta Baumgartner enjoy lunch at the Lenoir City Central Park playground.

Almost all aspects of Loudon and Lenoir City Parks and Recreation departments are now operational.

In Loudon, everything is open except playgrounds, Mark Harrell, Loudon Parks and Recreation director, said. He said it is impossible to expect playgrounds to remain sanitized, so the best plan of action is to keep them closed.

The decision is based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested guidelines.

“That’s a thought that I don’t know if they will ever allow it to go back to normal with the playgrounds,” he said. “It’s sad because we just recently in the last two years invested over $200,000 in the playgrounds and then to just have to shut them down. I’ve been here just over 21 years and it’s sad when you see these things we’ve done during my tenure that you can’t use.”

Basketball courts, tennis courts, pickleball courts, soccer fields and walking trails are open.

The Loudon public pool was open the third weekend with a capacity of 75, a dramatic decrease from the typical 225, Harrell said. Other safety measures include marking spaces 6 feet by 15 feet for families to sit. Harrell said ideally families will set up in every other space so there is enough distance between.

Gloves and masks will be offered at the front gate. Benches lining the pool were removed because they were “germ areas,” Harrell said. Umbrellas were taken off the tables, which are now only to be used for food consumption, and staff will sanitize them after each use.

“We closed anything folks, especially young children, can rub their hands on and potentially contaminate other people, which is the stairway for the slide and the climbing wall,” Harrell said. “We don’t know how fast it can be killed. Can it live there? Is this a spot we sprayed, a spot we missed? So we felt like the safest thing to do was keep it closed. That was a bit discouraging because those are our greatest features … Still we’re going to err on the side of safety.”

Signs are posted at park entrances notifying patrons of the risk of exposure to coronavirus, and there is still only one restroom open in each park, Harrell said. With a two-man team and only half the restrooms open, it takes four hours to fully sanitize bathrooms with bleach and water every day.

In Lenoir City, all parks, playgrounds, pools, basketball courts and soccer fields are open, Zack Cusick, Lenoir City Parks and Recreation program coordinator, said. Cusick said the city is asking residents to use common sense for social distancing and using the parks or other amenities.

“With our playgrounds, what we’re looking at doing now is doing a sanitized cleaning before the fall, but right now we’re not daily cleaning or sanitizing the playgrounds currently,” Cusick said. “When it’s good, bright and sunny weather, the virus can’t live on the surfaces very long anyway. So if people are worried about it they can still wear their gloves or bring any kind of sanitizing wipes with them.”

Cusick said washing and sanitizing hands is always a viable option.

Peggy Baumgartner, Tellico Village resident, said she’s glad the park is open. For the last month, her daughter-in-law, Greta Baumgartner, has been visiting from New Jersey with her two children, Sarah and Leo Baumgartner. Greta said they go to the park three times a week.

The Lenoir City public pool is still at 50 percent capacity, which allows for about 250 patrons at one time, Cusick said. People will still have about 15 square feet of space between each other, he said.

The cleaning routine for bathrooms never changed.

“So during our normal cleaning routine, we’re still checking the bathrooms multiple times a day and cleaning those multiple times during the day, because even before the virus and everything came about, we still would check those multiple times during the day, because as soon as we clean them in the morning, we could take an hour and something else would happen,” Cusick said.