Department announces postponements, cancellations, and virtual offerings due to COVID-19
It comes as no surprise that the summer of 2020 will look differently from most Minnesotan summers. But the Richfield Recreation Services Department staff is committed to making the most out of this difficult time by providing residents with high-quality programming.
To prioritize the health and safety of program participants and facility users, department personnel have announced the postponement, cancellation and virtualization of the majority of its summer offerings.
“This was a really heartbreaking decision for us to make,” admitted Recreation Services Director Amy Markle. “Summer is our most fulfilling time of year for our staff and the residents they serve, and it is hard for us to imagine a summer without some of our foundational programs. However, we know this is the best way to keep our residents safe and we are happy to comply with that goal in mind.”
Public Safety Director Jay Henthorne said, “The city worked through mitigation of our summer programming with the ultimate goal of community and participant safety in mind while following emergency management best practices.”
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Minnesota in March, the city’s Recreation Services Department has worked with local, state and federal public health experts to determine how to keep the community safe while using city facilities and programming. It was through this process that the department, in consultation with city leadership, decided that a majority of the city’s summer events should be canceled, postponed, or transitioned to a virtual format.
“We waited as long as we could to make a decision on our summer programming, holding out hope that our public health experts would provide us with safe options for recreational offerings,” City Manager Katie Rodriguez said. “The guidance we have received recommends that we keep social distancing in place and refrain from holding large group events.”
While some programs are still labeled as “wait and see,” others have been fully canceled. The programs which will go on hiatus for the 2020 summer season include the city-wide garage sale, summer playground program, movies in the park, dance recitals and Red, White and Blue Days.
In addition, outdoor facilities such as the public pool and the rental of park shelters will be closed for the season.
“I wish we could open the pool or host Red, White and Blue Days at the drop of a hat if circumstances were to change this summer,” Markle said. “However, both getting the pool up and running and planning the city’s annual Fourth of July festival take months of planning and organization.
Regrettably, with the current state of affairs, we have to make these decisions now for the entire summer season.”
Despite these setbacks, the recreation staff is excited to offer many of their programs virtually, so residents can still access them. Programs transitioning to a virtual format include several Entertainment in the Park kids concerts, senior programming, family fitness classes, Wood Lake Nature Center classes, the Honoring All Veterans Memorial Day ceremony and the Urban Wildland races.
“The Urban Wildland Half Marathon and 5K are very popular events that people from all over the country come to participate in. We did not want people to miss out on their fitness goals or the sense of community the race brings, so we are planning to offer it virtually this summer,“ remarked Wood Lake Nature Center naturalist and race director Brianna Rodgers.
“Plus, this year we are also adding two additional distances: 10K and 10-mile options.”
The department can continue to offer some of its programming in-person by using effective virus mitigation strategies. Programs such as the MaltTee mini-golf and malt shop, farmers market, and skate park will remain operational.
“Proper social distancing guidelines and increased sanitation efforts will allow for some summer programming to commence as planned,” said Community Health Services Administrator Jennifer Anderson. “The recreation services department has worked long and hard to develop a plan to ensure that participants remain safe while accessing city programming and amenities.”
In terms of the farmers market, which opens for the season May 16, vendors and event organizers will be implementing many of the same social distancing practices and adapted services seen at traditional grocery stores over the past several weeks. Customers can order online and pick up their items curbside, handwashing stations will be present, more space will be allocated between vendors, a one-way direction will be implemented and personal protective equipment will be strongly encouraged for patrons.
The COVID-19 public health crisis is ever-evolving. If federal and state public health guidelines change and the city needs to alter its current plans for summer recreation programming to keep residents healthy and safe, it will do so. The city will notify residents through email, its website and social media channels as more information or changes become available.
For more information, visit the city’s website for a complete list of all programming and facility changes at trimurl.co/E7RyJ2.
- Courtesy of the Richfield Communications Department