City parks closed to keep citizens safe

Wednesday, April 8, 2020
The OPAR committee voted to place caution tape around the playground equipment in hopes of discouraging children and stopping the spread of germs.
(Photo By Sandra Brand)

The Osceola Parks and Recreation Committee held a meeting in the city hall parking lot Friday. Committee chair council member Sandra Brand, council member Gary Cooper, Mayor Sally Wilson, OPAR director Michael Ephlin, Golf Course supervisor Dylan Bowles, council member Greg Baker, Osceola Police officer Derrick Times and other members of the committee were on hand.

Ephlin stated all city parks were closed due to COVID-19 Pandemic. Ephlin said this was done to keep the citizens safe. “With everything going on, I got with the mayor and it was decided to close the parks and the community center,” said Ephlin.

“This virus is for real. We are taking steps to protect everybody. We want everyone to be safe,” Ephlin stated. “Kids want to go to the parks, but we just can’t allow it. We need to maintain social distancing.”

Mayor Sally Wilson also closed the San Souci Park in the hope of keeping more than 10 people from gathering. The boat ramps are still open and fishing on the river is allowed.
(Photo By Sandra Brand)

The golf course, however, remains open, as do the walking trails along Semmes, Country Club Road and the OPAR ballfields. The boat ramp at San Souci Park also remains open although the rest of the park is closed.

“The golf course is open because people can keep their distance, by the very nature of the game,” said Ephlin. Maintenance at the golf course is behind schedule due to the rain. “The rain is killing us out there,” said Ephlin. “Dylan is mowing where he can but it is all so wet.”

Officer Times gave an update on large groups attempting to gather in parks. “Our biggest issue is groups trying to gather on Friday and Saturday. There are large groups coming from all over. We are like adult babysitters.” Ephlin reminded Times that the parks are closed. “We might need to put some signage out, but all they need to know is the parks are closed.”

Ephlin brought up two potential grant opportunities as well. One was a grant to improve the lighting in the big gym at the community center. “Those lights have been there since the building opened,” said Ephlin. The other is a grant through Baseball for America to improve the lighting of the ball parks.

Ephlin also spoke about issues such as the delayed start of the baseball-softball season. “We won’t start until we are cleared to do so,” said Ephlin. “But we have uniforms we have paid for which cannot be returned to the supplier. However, if we can get cleared to play, we will. Until then, we are in a holding pattern.”

Ephlin also discussed the Scout Hut and what to do with the building. Ephlin said to redo the areas caused by a storm, would cost $10,000-15,000. “The roof will have to be re-pitched, but just how much all of this will cost is unknown. The best alternative might be to start all over,” said Ephlin.

Brand asked how many events are held at the Scout Hut and does it need to be rebuilt. Ephlin replied, “The building is rented for class reunions in the fall and summer. Other events are held there. The dance class was meeting there.”

The committee made a recommendation to tear down the building and start over. This recommendation will be taken to the city council.