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GBRC board discusses phased reopening
The MyBackyard Playground is one of several GBRC facilities tentatively scheduled for limited reopening beginning Monday, May 18. All rec facilities have been closed to the public approximately two months in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. - photo by Daniel Kiewel

The Great Bend Recreation Commission board approved tentative plans Monday for a phased reopening of GBRC facilities and programs.

“Patrons will see some changes in our programs this summer. We’re disinfecting, (and they can have) assurances that we have a very safe environment for our patrons involved in our recreation programs,” GBRC Executive Director Diann Henderson told board members Monday. She told the board significant research went into structuring a plan that was practical, within current guidelines, and with public safety in mind.

“Right now, we’re falling right in line with what some of the other agencies are doing,” Henderson said at Monday’s meeting. 

Here is a look at the early phases of the original reopening plan the board approved Monday, which were originally set to start Monday, May 18. Due to revised guidelines issued by Governor Laura Kelly Thursday afternoon, Assistant Superintendent Chris Umphres said GBRC administrators would meet Friday to discuss potential changes to this:

• The Carl Soden Recreation Center, Great Bend Activity Center, and Cavanaugh Wellness Center would reopen to the public with social distancing restrictions in place and a limit of 30 people in active zones. Patrons are still encouraged to check with the GBRC office, as drop-in activities at the recreation facilities will be restricted until Aug. 1.

• The MyBackyard Playground would reopen with social distancing enforced and new informative signage.

• All baseball fields, tennis courts, and Veterans Park disc golf course would reopen with social distancing and 30-person gathering limits enforced in active zones. On May 26, these would also reopen for games, scrimmages, leagues and tennis/pickleball lessons, again, with all appropriate guidelines being enforced.

• Single team practices for summer rec sports programs were also originally scheduled to begin may 18.

• Rec operations are scheduled to resume at 50% capacity.

Umphres also advised the first rec sports tournaments are tentatively scheduled to be held the weekend of June 6-7. He hopes to have a final draft of the plan prepared the week prior to those first tournaments.

Umphres also the advised enrollment deadline was being pushed back to May 31 for summer rec sports programs in the hopes that full summer sports seasons could still be held. The tentative target start date is June 29.

Enrichment and Aquatic Director Megan Hammeke told the board she remains hopeful the Wetlands Waterpark can open this summer as well. The target date is June 15, with swim lessons tentatively scheduled to begin June 22. With approval from the Great Bend City Council, she advised work is being completed to refurbish slides at the park as well and repainting the pool, and she is optimistic they will be able to start filling the pool next week.

Activity Center Director Garet Fitzpatrick said he was also looking at restarting the majority of other rec programs around June 15. They are still reorganizing and in the process of contacting staff to determine which programs would be able to restart at that.

Also in future phases of reopening, GBRC tentatively planned to step operations from 50% to 75% capacity beginning as early as June 1, with full operations hopefully resuming as early as July 13.

At this time, the Rec Commission is still planning on moving forward with the Mega Kite Festival and Oozefest events Aug. 8 in connection with the Party in the Park.

Henderson advised that in all programs, and in every phase of reopening, all appropriate social distancing, gathering size and sanitizing guidelines would be followed and enforced with the goal being maximizing the safety of patrons using the rec facilities.

She said marketing and notifications would primarily be done in a digital format, with GBRC looking at providing its Summer Program Guide in a digital, rather that a mailed format. They are also working on sending out postcard reminders to parents to let them know important dates. Other updates, Henderson said, would be provided through traditional print, radio, electronic, and digital media, including on their social media platform.

Other COVID-19 response measures

The board also discussed and approved other measures GBRC took, or plans to take, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Henderson advised the board the financial outlook for GBRC is still positive, but has required them to take internal steps to mitigate losses.

“This process of closure resulted in postponed or canceled recreation programs, which lower operation costs and personnel costs for those months to offset the loss of revenue for recreation fees and services,”  Henderson said. “In not knowing the duration of closure of recreation facilities in March, steps were taken to reduce costs internally and (through) staffing measures.”

The board also approved updating the employee handbook to reflect changes to the Emergency Sick Leave and Family Leave policies in response to COVID-19 and the Family First Coronavirus Response Act.

The board also approved a temporary emergency resolution recommended by the Kansas League of Municipalities allowing the board authority to continue operations in case those persons who are in the position to make financial and executive decisions for GBRC are not available. Henderson said the resolution could be rescinded once it is deemed no longer necessary.

“Basically, this resolution there allows us the authorization of our remote participation in our public meetings, expanding the authority of the executive director and the assistant director (Umphres).”

Support for tennis court light project

In one additional item, the board approved a extending a letter of support to the City of Great Bend providing monetary support for the purpose of updating the lighting and poles of the west tennis courts at Veterans Park. The board approved monetary support to the city of up to $48,000 to purchase new lighting from Musco Lighting. 

This letter of support was approved at such time as the city elects to move forward with replacing for Veterans Park sports facilities in the upcoming budget year.