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For First Time, Harrison County Parks and Recreation Suspends its Annual Summer Parks Programs

By Connect-Bridgeport Staff on May 11, 2020 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

For over 40 years, Director Mike Book has been involved with the Parks Department for Harrison County and this will be the first year that he has had to recommend to suspend the program. With the guidance of the County Commission and other county departments, it was determined the safety of the kids would be threatened if the program ran as scheduled. 
 
“It was a very hard decision to make but when we weighed out the pros and cons of having a program, it would have been nearly impossible to keep the kids safe,” said Book. “We brought in the Director of Harrison County Emergency Management, the County Administrator and Assistant County Administrator and upon discussion, we all agreed that this is the best and only option.” 
 
In review of Governor Justice’s “West Virginia STRONG - The Comeback” plan of action, the Health Department urges that organized camps normally permitted around this time stay closed. The concern is groups of 25 or more people in one area and when any restrictions would be modified.
 
According to Director Book, that does not mean there is no light at the end of the tunnel. He is optimistic that he will have some form of camp before the end of the summer break.
 
“We are going to make every effort to have some form of a camp for the kids. Now, we do not have a timeframe of when we can do this but we have been expecting something like this and have a backup plan in place. Doug Comer, Deputy Director for the Parks Department, has been in contact with other parks departments throughout the state gathering information about what others are doing.  Sadly, we will not be the only county or city parks department that will not have a summer program or even an open public pool.”
 
The program would normally run from the third week of June and conclude by the end of July. With nine sites located throughout Harrison County, the program is free to all kids between six and 15 years of age including a meal plan consisting of a breakfast and a lunch funded under a federal grant.
 
If a program can be put in place, the procedures under the Covid-19 safety standards will definitely require kids to be checked for fever, cough and even shortness of breath prior to sign-in.  
 
“I have been doing this for a long time and this has been something that I will never forget,” said Book. “Upwards of 500 kids are affected and the 70-some people we hire as staff supervision will be without jobs. The training, specializing and getting staff coverage was one of the many issues reviewed and how to proceed with the process in small group settings. The biggest obstacle facing the program is number of people allowed in large groups, which is currently limited to 25.” 
 
Organized activities under the COVID-19 rules would be nearly impossible to successful implement while keeping the integrity of the activity intact. That said, while our parks are public, we need to be cognizant of taking every precaution to avoid families from accessing the facilities at this time for the overall safety of our community.
 
Please continue to look for updates as we get closer to being in the “safe zone.” Your parks and recreation department will continue to bring quality programs for our children. 
 



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