City council approves parks and facilities reopening strategy

Cranbrook city council approved a plan to strategically reopen indoor recreational facilities based on a plan developed with input from provincial sports organizations and health authorities.

Outdoor parks and amenities have been reopened to the public as the province begins to ease restrictions put in place to stem the spread of COVID-19, however, challenges with adoring to provincial health orders indoors remain.

The B.C. Recreation and Parks Association (BCRPA) was tasked with developing guidelines around operating parks and recreation spaces amidst the pandemic, while viaSPORT was asked to do the same for determining a safe return of sports activity.

As far as a return to sport goes, it’s up to each local sports organization to come up with plans demonstrating that participants can adhere to directives issued by the provincial health officer while on the soccer field, ball diamond or hockey arena.

Councillor John Hudak lent his support to the work being done by the community services department in finding appropriate ways to safely reopen city facilities.

“Given the fact that we haven’t had an awful lot of instances of COVID in our area, I think it’s about time we start opening up some of our facilities,” said Coun. Hudak. “Obviously summer is going to have a different view to it this year and anything we can do to provide some enjoyment to our citizens, especially for the young people in the community here, I think we should go along with it.”

The city is anticipating ice to be in the Memorial Arena by Aug. 10th, which would be used before Western Financial Place due to capital work that is expected to be underway. User groups aren’t the only ones that must follow guidelines; the city is currently working to set requirements for spectators, skaters and no access to showers or change rooms.

Things remain in flux for the arena portion of Western Financial Place.

The roof is currently under construction, but staff is currently forecasting multiple scenarios if a BCHL season goes forward for the inaugural campaign with the Cranbrook Bucks. Specifically, the challenge isn’t just whether contact hockey will be allowed, but if more than 50 spectators will be allowed in the stands.

For the Aquatic Centre, the transmission of the coronavirus through the water isn’t a concern, there are still other issues, according to the city. Key points for reopening the facility will be reducing capacity in the pool, allowing activities that can be done through social distancing, and providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and updated training for lifeguards.

The city is also waiting on further direction from a BCRPA task force that is focusing on aquatic centres. Staff is currently working on a cost/benefit analysis of opening and operating the facility with reduced capacity, and is expecting to open the pool by late August or September.

The reopening strategy is considered a living document that can be altered as further direction comes down from the province and health authorities. Additional feedback to elected officials is expected next council meeting on July 13.

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