Beginning this weekend, kids might be able to play beyond their backyards as the City of Kodiak approved opening up city playgrounds to the public this Saturday. Following the governor’s plan to incrementally reopen the state as new cases of COVID-19 decrease statewide, at last night’s City Council work session, city mayor Pat Branson asked manager Mike Tvenge about the possibility of allowing families and children to spend some time at their neighborhood playground.
Branson: “You said, Mike, that the playgrounds might open up this weekend?”
Tvenge responded, “We could, if the Council is comfortable with a mitigation plan that we come up with.”
In addition to playgrounds, the city council is also considering reopening Parks and Recreation, the library, the harbor office and the police station, once they approve of mitigation plans developed by each department.
Tvenge added, “We’re going to put together a mitigation plan for all of our buildings. Review those. Just like all the businesses have been doing in town. And if you’re comfortable following my direction, or want to give me some dates, or want to review those mitigation plans first, we can easily do that. We’ve been in the process to determine an opening date for a couple weeks now.”
Despite the optimism around a controlled reopening of public spaces, councilmembers reiterated that precautions still need to be taken when opening the playgrounds.
Councilmember Terry Haines said, “I do think it is incumbent on us to be extra careful. Because unlike a business, who are looking at their survival, I think the city is gonna go on. We need to be very careful that we’re not endangering the community, but on the same token, put stuff back into place that helps them to continue to survive and stay healthy.”
Tvenge assured the council that safeguards will be put in place: “There’s a way to disinfect that and leave it up to the parents or guardians to disinfect around their children.”
The council also suggested posting signs encouraging people to wear masks and placing stands with disinfectant wipes in each playground. Tvenge suggested this could be part of a larger awareness campaign by the Emergency Operations Center.
“The EOC is making these 3×5 foot banners with symbols on them. One is social distancing: there’s two people with arrows between them. The middle one is a mask, someone wearing a mask. The third symbol is wash your hands. We’re going to put these 12 banners around town, tie them up in the park areas, downtown, just as reminders. There’s no messaging on there, just symbols. Just a reminder to everyone to be cautious.”
Until mitigation plans are reviewed by the Emergency Operations Center and then approved by the council, city facilities will remain closed to the public; however, some recreational areas, including the skate park, hockey rink and other parks, are currently open.