What’s ahead for Vashon parks

Facilities will open, likely with social distancing, disinfecting protocols, and group size limits.

  • Saturday, May 23, 2020 2:04pm
  • Opinion
Elaine Ott-Rocheford

Elaine Ott-Rocheford

As Vashon reopens through Governor Inslee’s four-phase plan, the Vashon Park District is working hard at planning what that means for facilities, events, and recreation. We are happy to have parks remain open throughout the Stay Home order, but we know folks are anxious to resume their favorite sports and recreational activities, as well.

It appears evident that reopening will come with social distancing, disinfecting protocols, and group size restrictions required. With all the requirements in mind, we anticipate many facilities and group activities opening with Phase 3 – expected to be June 22 at the earliest, based on current data trends.

A tri-county park directors group, comprised of King, Pierce, and Snohomish County Directors, teleconferences twice weekly to discuss reopening strategies under the guidance of Governor Inslee’s Outdoor Recreation Senior Policy Advisor. Our objective is to make decisions uniformly and consistently throughout the Puget Sound area. For example, last week’s discussion included a “Social Distancing Success Plan” for baseball and softball that recommends assigned seating in the dugouts, no shared use of equipment, disinfecting the bat after each player’s use, and spectators setting up lawn chairs outside the fence line. We are following the lead of each sport group’s decision to reinstate as they deem appropriate, and we are committed to assisting with safety plans to do so if they so choose.

Specifically, VPD facilities include the following reopening plans for now:

Sports Fields and Gymnasiums – Phase 3 (June 22) will allow for outdoor recreational sports activities capped at groups of 50 people. Indoor gyms will be allowed at under 50% capacity.

Vashon Pool – Randy Turner, VPD Aquatics Manager, has been teleconferencing with pool operators throughout Western Washington and researching national COVID guidelines through USA Swimming. The plan is to open with Phase 3. Open swim is highly discouraged, both due to social distancing concerns and the inability to adequately train lifeguards. VPD’s plan, in line with recommendations and trends, will be to offer lap swim by reservation only Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm. One person would be allowed per lane (two adults or an adult and child if they cohabitate) in 50-minute blocks. Lessons and water aerobics remain in planning. All will be reevaluated for Phase 4, but again, lifeguard training and staffing will be a challenge.

Ober Park Playground will remain closed until Phase 4 (July 13 at the earliest) due to our inability to safely disinfect the equipment regularly.

Ober Park Exercise Room – several instructors have inquired about holding classes outdoors in the Ober courtyard, and this could be accommodated in small groups of no more than five individuals as early as Phase 2 (June 1 at the earliest). Otherwise, indoor activities could resume with Phase 3 with disinfecting protocols.

Camps – The Sailing Camp has been canceled due to social distancing concerns. We are working on offering small group skate camps at BARC, likely with Phase 3.

Concerts in the Park – this is a tough one, as planning is required early in the year, and the allowance for groups larger than 50 will not be allowed until Phase 4 (July 13 at the earliest). But it is possible, as we work with Vashon Events in considering a venue of local talent. The outdoor environment in August at Ober Park is conducive to appropriate social distancing.

Festivals – the Low Tide Festival, scheduled for June 6, has been postponed, but the Low Tide Committee is committed to setting a new date later in 2020.

Park Restrooms will likely remain closed until Phase 3 due to disinfecting concerns. Porta-Potties are available at most parks, serviced weekly by the vendor.

Meanwhile, construction was allowed in April for repairing the vandalism damage to the ball field at Agren Park. The project has been completed, but the park will remain closed while the turf is reestablished.

Tramp Harbor Dock lease negotiations with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources have been progressing positively, although the final lease has yet to be presented. Design, repair, and funding considerations remain as challenges, but we are encouraged by the support received from a citizen’s group formed for consult and guidance.

Stay tuned for an online survey soon to be presented for public input in selecting the new Ober Park playground equipment and exercise stations with construction slated for fall, 2020! The project will be funded with a King County Youth and Amateur Sports Grant and will feature inclusive play and exercise equipment for the ADA community and seniors.

Enjoy your parks, Vashon! Six feet apart.

Elaine Ott-Rocheford is the executive director of the Vashon Park District.

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