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County approves ‘gradual’ reopening
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Liberty County officials Monday approved gradual reopening of the recreation department’s ball fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, batting cages, and the skate park that had been closed in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Walking trails, running tracks, fishing piers, boat ramps, restrooms and green space have remained available for individual use during the crisis.

Phase I of the reopening will allow use of outdoor facilities with social distancing and disinfecting guidelines in force.  Phase I will include ball fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, batting cages, and the skate park. A maximum of 10 people can use each facility at one time.

Recreation Director Jimmy Martin said his department’s most popular sport--basketball--was its most difficult to regulate.

“You can’t play basketball and observe social distancing,” he said. Commissioners speculated the reopened courts could be used for free throw contests or to play horse.

Playgrounds will not be reopened in Phase I; the gathering of children and their use of equipment hamper distancing and disinfection.Officials discussed a reservation system for recreation facilities: “If you want to use a batting cage, you can know a batting cage will be available.,” Martin said.

Reduced hours will make facilities easier to disinfect

The commission decided to begin advertising for lifeguards necessary for swimming pool reopening. Pools could be back in operation in early June; the commission will act on that later.

The pools and the recreation centers will open in Phase II with restricted numbers of patrons.

The last phase will be reopening of pavilions and playgrounds and resumption of organized activities like day camp, swim lessons and sports camps. These are currently closed for COVID-19 control.

Also Monday the commissioners discussed but did not decide the format of their June 2 regular meeting. The commissioners have been holding their meeting by teleconference as a COVID-19 precaution. They have however held two in-person gatherings of officials to work on the proposed Fiscal Year 2021 budget.

The budget sessions were held in the commissioners large meeting room which allowed plenty of space among those attending. The in-person with distancing model could be followed June 2.

The commissioners also need to hold a public hearing on the budget; this could be done via internet or by a session allowing distancing and other precautions. 

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