Local summer recreational programs are in serious jeopardy — if not already canceled — due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, the Wauseon Recreation Association (WRA) determined that COVID-19 social distancing restrictions set forth by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine will prevent organization of the city’s summer programs.
Additionally, city Parks and Recreation Superintendent Matt Mennetti decided, after discussions with city and school officials, to follow the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s mandate that all activities be canceled through June.
In a statement, Mennetti said, “This was a decision based on discussions between myself as the recreation superintendent, the City of Wauseon, and WRA Board President Zach Riley. I did receive some clarification from a couple key school administrators. In accordance with the directives set forth last Thursday by the OHSAA that all school facilities were to remain closed through June 30, there was no way in any good conscience to put the youth of this community and their families on a field at Biddle Park this summer and risk their health and safety. That would be reckless and irresponsible. Therefore, the decision was made to cancel our summer programs.”
Public Service Director Keith Torbet, who oversees Parks and Recreation, said it doesn’t appear that the state’s restrictions will be lifted by the May 15 deadline the city set to make a decision.
“There doesn’t look like a sign of lifting the order of groups of 10,” he said. “And by the time we get into July we’re already preparing to start our fall activities. I think we need to have something for the kids to do. I feel for them immensely.”
The distancing restrictions have made it impossible to organize coaches and teams. “We wouldn’t have time to do a quality program for the kids,” Torbet said.
In Pettisville, the plan was to host baseball and softball skills camps this summer as opposed to actual games. However, they too decided to cancel all summer programs last week.
Their decision, similar to Wauseon’s, was based on OHSAA facilities being closed through June.
“We are saddened that the players will not have the opportunity to play this summer. We hope that if we continue to follow the guidance of the Ohio Department of Health and OHSAA, we can get back to sports soon,” said Steve Hastings of the Pettisville Community Recreation department.
Archbold is still holding out hope for its summer programs, according to Jennifer Kidder, Director of Parks and Recreation.
She said that if play cannot be started by June 15, then they will cancel as well. As of now, they are awaiting further instructions from Governor DeWine.
Nevertheless, they did come to a conclusion in regards to opening the pool for the summer. In light of all it would take to enforce social distancing guidelines required by the state at this time, it was decided to close the pool this summer.
“Whether I personally agree or disagree with all that has come along with the changes in all of our lives, I am in a position that I must follow all guidelines and regulations that are extended,” explained Kidder as to why the decision was reached.
“All lifeguards are required to wear facemasks. Social distance guidelines will be required to be maintained. This cannot be done by a lifeguard that is on duty. It would require additional staffing. So, essentially we would be required to have someone walking around the pool and ensuring that they are six feet away from another individual. Kids go to the pool to play with their friends, whether in the water, on the deck or outside the pool itself. Maintaining this is going to be very difficult with kids of all ages.”
Swanton made their decision back on April 20 — which was to cancel summer ball. They reached their decision on the same day the governor announced school facilities were to remain closed for the rest of the school year.
The Swanton Recreation department is currently in the process of refunding those who signed their child up for summer baseball and softball. For spring soccer, which was also canceled due to the pandemic, they have either refunded those who requested one or rolled it over to the fall soccer program.
No final decision has been reached in Delta. Per village officials, whether or not to hold summer ball programs will depend on if social gatherings of more than 10 people are still prohibited by the governor through June.
Village Administrator Brad Peebles, Mayor Bob Gilbert and Council President Frank Wilton have the final say when determining if the park can be open to the public.
Fayette Park Director Kevin Bostelman could not be reached for comment.
David J. Coehrs contributed to this story.