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Cranbrook City Council approves Re-Opening Strategy for Parks and Recreation Facilities

Cranbrook City Council unanimously approved the City’s Parks and Recreation Facilities Re-Opening Strategy, which outlines guidelines and frameworks to eventually open all City-owned infrastructure.

Like other municipalities, the City followed the guidance of the British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association (BCRPA), in regards to public recreation and parks, and viaSPORT, for the eventual return of sport in the community.

“Those two associations were basically approved by the Province and tasked with developing a set of restarting guidelines that aligned with the Province’s Restart Plan as well,” Chris New told MyEastKootenayNow.com, Director of Community Services with the City of Cranbrook.

New said they have had the challenge of working the strategy to fall in line with Phase 2 of the B.C. Government’s Restart Plan, but Phase 3 and subsequent steps could change the benchmarks, parameters, and other safety guidelines or restrictions.

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“It’s really day-to-day or week-by-week,” said New. “You’re not only planning on how to re-open but you also have to consider what happens if we have to reel it back partway into the next phase and then we go backwards, it’s just a continually evolving process.”

New said some restrictions could easily be relaxed but they could potentially cause a reaction, forcing facilities to close again or stall progress. He fully anticipates the limit of 50 people will remain in place for Phase 3.

That being said, the City of Cranbrook has begun to open many areas. As of June 12th, several outdoor facilities are open for public use.

Outdoor Facilities / Use Safety Considerations
Trails including NorthStar R2T
  • Best practices signage and website, social media posts
  • Signage to indicate service levels
Parks and green spaces
  • Best practices signage and website, social media posts
  • Group bookings currently not being accepted, including those under 50 people
  • Small circle/family use allowed on picnic tables and shelters
Disc Golf / Tennis / Pickleball / Basketball / Skateboard park
  • Best practices signage
  • Activity specific signage
  • Basketball nets are currently staggered between two courts to prevent full games
Playgrounds and public washrooms in parks
  • Best practices signage, social media posts
  • Signage to indicate service levels
Ball parks / Soccer fields
  • Best practices signage
  • No organized events, games or contact in practices
Dog park
  • Best practices signage
BMX Park
  • Currently closed until project completion, however, is being used

“Those facilities were deemed to be a much lower risk than certain activities and outdoor was deemed as being much safer than indoor activities.”

Following new viaSPORT guidelines, New noted there are now additional uses permitted for soccer and ball fields.

“Within the viaSPORT guidelines in this current phase, it’s limited to practices, skill development – those type of things that can maintain the 2-metre distancing and no contact. It’s a limited re-entry as we get into sports itself.”

Spray parks, splash pads, and park group bookings are still not permitted. However, New said the viaSPORT parameters will be applied to park group bookings for gatherings under 50 people if they have a physical distancing plan. The spray parks and splash pads are still an area of concern for New, noting they have a tendency to attract large crowds over 50 people. New said it then becomes an issue of operating those spaces within the guidelines.

As for amateur sport, most groups have a Provincial Sport Organization (PSO) that they belong to. New said those PSOs will release guidelines to run parallel to the viaSPORT recommendations but will be more specific to each sport. Those guidelines will have to include plans to ensure distancing, safety protocols and instructions for volunteers and staff to operate in a COVID-19 environment.

One of the sticking points is what happens to groups that don’t have a PSO. For example, Oldtimers Hockey would have to follow similar parameters as BC Hockey, but they still are expected to have their own safety plan in effect if they hope to resume. New said that is keeping in mind that contact sports are still not permitted, and would limit activities to drills and skill development.

Outdoor Facilities / Use Safety Considerations
Spray Parks and splash pads
  • Advice from agencies has been unclear. Key concerns around these facilities lie in the high number of touchpoints, and how to manage crowds and distancing
  • Some municipalities are considering placing full-time attendants at these facilities but that is only practical on fenced facilities
  • An Ambassador program has been developed through the Regional Emergency Operations Centre and is available to the City if we want to allocate staff to this role
  • Staff are continuing to work with our provincial task force and will have additional information soon
Park group bookings
  • Currently we have not booked parks for any group activities, regardless of size. Concern on how to manage numbers
  • With the development of the viaSPORT guidelines, we can begin taking park bookings for groups of up to 50, provided they follow similar guidelines – this includes developing a plan for how to ensure distancing and other safe practices, how to screen participants, insurance naming City additional insured, signing our COVID assumption of risks, and other items. We would exclude any alcohol activities at this time
  • These activities will be self-regulated and no additional staff resources will be in place to monitor compliance
Sport team use of athletic fields and ball parks
  • With the province’s endorsement of the viaSPORT plan, we now have the parameters for sports groups to begin using the fields with clear guidelines on the plan required. Each of our local sports groups will have to develop a plan that meets the sport-specific requirements developed by their provincial sport organization. This plan is reviewed (but not approved) by City staff. Although only skills and noncontact activity is permitted, we expect to see Soccer and baseball conducting youth practices soon
  • These activities will be self-regulated and no additional staff resources will be in place to monitor compliance
  • The Province has recently extended COVID-19 liability insurance coverage to an amateur sport group

New said the next major challenge is being able to reopen Cranbrook’s indoor facilities such as Western Financial Place and the Memorial Arena.

“Indoor facilities do carry a lot more requirements. There’s a lot more in the way from WorkSafe plans to protect our staff to when you’re having more engagement with the public,” New explained to MyEastKootenayNow.com. “There’s also all the other parameters, new training on life-saving for example for the Aquatic Centre, or restricted number of people on the ice in the arenas as far as ensuring distancing and these types of things. There’s no contact sport, it’s skills and drills.”

Working through the various steps, New said it is their intent to have ice available in August while they look to late August or early September for the Aquatic Centre. That plan accounts for ongoing work happening at Western Financial Place for the arena roof, as well as the various arena upgrades such as the new boards, glass, and video jumbotron.

Indoor Facilities Safety Considerations
Memorial Arena
  • With the viaSPORT guidelines providing the opportunity for sport to return, there is a need for a variety of ice rentals. Four hockey camps are able to run, and a variety of other user groups have expressed interest to rent ice for other small group training during August. We anticipate groups such as figure skating will have little difficulty meeting the new PSO requirements
  • Memorial Arena would be used prior to WFP because capital work will still be taking place in August at WFP. All users, including the Cranbrook Bucks are aware of this and it is not an issue
  • Each group is required to put together a plan that follows the viaSPORT requirements, as well as direction from the Provincial Sport Organization. Even if a group is not affiliated with at PSO, such as Oldtimers Hockey, they would be expected to develop a safety plan that mirrors the viaSPORT requirements
  • Groups will be required to follow any facility-specific rules that the City will implement
  • The arena would not be operated with the full staff contingent. The minimum level of staff to allow maximum rental time yet abiding by all BC Safety Authority operating requirements would be the fiscally prudent approach
  • Staff are working with the BCRPA members to come up with specific requirements which can include restricting spectators, maximum number of skaters, no access to showers/change rooms etc.
  • Staff are using WorkSafe BC guidelines to develop a safe return to work plan for staff
  • Usage of the Memorial ice would begin August 10th
Western Financial Place – Arena
  • Staff hope to have additional guidance over the next few weeks to assist in developing the arena opening plans for WFP. If restrictions are not lifted, staff would report back to Council with a cost/benefit analysis of how many ice surfaces the City could open. This will include a survey of all ice users to confirm what level of ice rental they would commit to under the restrictions
  • Staff have been in discussion with the Cranbrook Bucks to look at possible scenarios as to when or if there will be a return to Junior A play this year. The challenge is not just whether or not contact hockey will be permitted in a league travel format, but more importantly is whether the team can have events with more than 50 people. If no events are permitted by the fall, there may not be a Junior A season
  • At this time, with so much uncertainty, staff will not make further recommendations on how WFP arena operations will occur. As we receive the next round of information from the Province/PHO, we will be able to update this strategy document with more concrete direction
Western Financial Place – Aquatic Centre
  • A variety of associations have been working on guidelines for indoor pool re-opening. We have recently received the updated guidance from the Provincial Health Office, which will provide much needed guidance to all BC municipalities. While the transmission of the virus through the chlorinated water is not an issue, there are still concerns
  • The key points of moving forward will include reduced capacity in the pool, activities that can be done to ensure social distancing, managing patron movement in hallways and changerooms, additional cleaning and PPE, updated training of lifeguards on new life-saving protocols, updated training protocols on leadership certifications for staff
  • Many of the municipalities are looking at an indoor pool opening late August to September. We are projecting a similar return date within this timeline. Staff had anticipated a potential extended shutdown in either July or August in part to the need to shut down some parts of the plant operation due to the replacement of the chiller. It now appears this will take place in the early/mid-August period
  • A BCRPA provincial task force on aquatic pool re-opening

Regardless of the what phase or stage of the process, New is looking at the light at the end of the tunnel, knowing there is still a lot of work ahead with the fluid and ever-changing COVID-19 climate.

“There will be a variety of parameters that will be put in place as we gradually move back into hopefully full operations at some point. That might not be until the new year, when the Province’s Phase 4 Restart kind of kicks in. We’re just kind of crossing our fingers.”

MORE: Parks and Recreation Facilities Re-Opening Strategy (City of Cranbrook)

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