Waco basketballers, skateboarders and horseshoe pitchers, along with parkgoers needing to use the restroom, regained access to those outdoor facilities Monday as the Waco parks and recreation department continued a gradual relaxation of COVID-19-related restrictions.
Residents also can return to city baseball, softball and soccer fields for practice, though organized play is still prohibited and the Riverbend Park baseball and softball complex is still closed.
Playgrounds and splash pads, too, are still closed as are the city’s community centers as Waco officials determine what conditions need to be set for their use that won’t facilitate possible coronavirus spread.
The latest relaxation of restrictions, taking place days before Memorial Day weekend, follow earlier decisions to allow general use of city parks with attention paid to social distancing and group size. Earlier this month, Waco reopened Cottonwood Creek golf course, the city’s three disc golf courses and its tennis courts.
Parks and Recreation Director Jonathan Cook said concerns about playgrounds’ high-touch surfaces and their use by children kept the city from reopening playgrounds at this time. Park restrooms will open with a thorough daily sanitation.
Campgrounds at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Lake Waco parks are expected to open for camping on Wednesday, according to the corps’ website, though group shelters, playgrounds and pavilions are still closed. Reservations and payments must be made in advance online at www.reservations.gov or by calling 877-444-6777.
Boat ramps are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., although Airport Beach and the back beach of the Twin Bridges day use area are closed due to flood damage.
In a Monday press conference announcing the next phase of business and organization reopenings across the state, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gave a green light to the opening of summer youth camps under certain social distancing and sanitation protocols.
That won’t change Waco’s decision to cancel its summer day camps, Camp Cameron and summer youth sports programs, Cook said, due to the lead time needed for staff training and the uncertainty about potential virus exposure by participants and camp leaders traveling to camp sites and within groups.
In the absence of center-based summer camps, parks and recreation staffers are considering creating virtual events and mobile recreation camps, he added.
The McLennan County Public Health District Monday reported no new cases of COVID-19, four active cases and two patients hospitalized. A total of 98 McLennan County residents have tested positive and 90 have recovered while four have died.
The city anticipates more reopenings and return of city parks operations after June 1, but Cook said city administrators are awaiting state guidance on how to manage large gatherings, public events that require a permit, sports tournaments and the like.
Yet unresolved, too, are what parts of the community centers can be reopened, such as exercise, meeting and computer rooms, and under what conditions.
“We have to be cautious,” Cook said.