Up until last week, outdoor recreational facilities in Hay River – including the playground equipment at the Tri-Service Park – were off limits for use by the public.
NNSL file photo

Hay River town council has approved a plan to reopen the community’s outdoor recreational facilities.

The decision at the May 19 online meeting of council came after the plan was presented by recreation director Stephane Millette, based on his review of Emerging Wisely, the GNWT’s plan to ease Covid-19 restrictions.

A key part of phase one of Emerging Wisely for sports and recreation is it allows outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people.

The town reopened its playgrounds, ball fields and the skate park last week.

“What we are proposing to do is to encourage responsible outdoor activities and to concentrate the efforts of our staff and the bulk of our expenses towards parks and green space maintenance, but also programming,” Millette said, noting the initial phases of Emerging Wisely emphasize outdoor activities.

“We’re looking to support a gradual return of user group activities, such as softball, soccer, golf, boating, fishing and the Fisherman’s Wharf, which are all identified in phase one of the Emerging Wisely plan,” he added.

Millette said the town wants to offer some outdoor recreation and leisure programming like the social paddle on the Hay River and fitness classes.

“Some of the programming that we usually offer through the summer I believe we can still offer through some of our regular staff, but it will be reduced and it will be offered outdoors,” he said.

The popular Summer Heat program for young people won’t be offered this year.

Millette noted Summer Heat is mainly an indoor summer camp at the Hay River Community Centre with some outdoor activities.

“That’s just not an option for this year,” he said.

Millette explained the community centre is a multi-use building and some of the uses are identified in different phases of Emerging Wisely.

“So it becomes difficult to plan around dates when it’s possible that we are looking at such a late timeline and something that is so unpredictable,” he said. “I feel we have a very viable second option as an outdoor summer camp park program which would allow families to register their kids for the service…. It would be similar to Summer Heat, but would be delivered at the parks rather than at one central facility.”

Millette noted the town’s plan has received approval from Dr. Kami Kandola, the NWT’s chief public health officer who released Emerging Wisely.

“Overall, I was pretty impressed with their approach and their plan,” said Kandola during her weekly media conference on May 20.

“They had looked at each situation thoroughly,” she said, adding the town’s plan put forward the right parameters based on Emerging Wisely. “And so well done, Hay River.”

Millette’s plan also met with a favourable response from council.

“Overall, I’m in favour of getting back to as much of a normal as we can, while following recommendations and advice and an approved plan of the chief medical officer,” said Coun. Keith Dohey. “I think that’s been the best way to handle this all along.”

Mayor Kandis Jameson noted that one of Kandola’s comments was that it is not reasonable for anybody to think the town could man parks or green spaces all the time.

“There’s no perfect plan, I’m sure, unless you have somebody standing there all the time, and there’s no way to close our facilities,” said Jameson. “So I think people just have to remember to be vigilant and think about that (the coronavirus) stays on metal equipment for a long time.”

Deputy mayor Robert Bouchard asked about the possibility of erecting signs advising people about safety precautions, such as using hand sanitizers.

“The Emerging Wisely plan does have guidelines specifically for signage,” Millette noted. “And for playgrounds and green spaces, we have developed a cleaning and disinfection protocol that was approved by Dr. Kandola.”

Indoor recreational facilities in Hay River will remain closed.

Emerging Wisely targets reopening such indoor facilities in its phase two in mid-to-late June, including swimming pools for instruction certification. Pools would reopen to the public in phase three of Emerging Wisely at a time to be determined.

The town is hoping to open the new Fisherman’s Wharf Pavilion with restrictions in July.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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