EP opening village park in stages
EAST PALESTINE — As the state continues on with its multiple phases to open back up, municipalities across the county have implemented their own strategies, given the updated guidelines from Gov. Mike DeWine, the CDC and local health departments. On Monday, East Palestine opened some aspects of the park to begin its reopening process.
As bathrooms have been closed in the park due to concern about maintaining cleanliness, Village Manager Mark McTrustry announced through a newsletter sent out to the community that there will be a bathroom open each day. The bathroom opened will be the one closest to the path up to the dog park on the southwest edge of the inner oval. The bathroom will be open from 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. and will be cleaned with anti-viral sanitizer at least three times per day.
As the governor ordered that all non-contact sports may resume, McTrustry said they have reopened the tennis court for tennis and pickleball games. The restrictions to the court opening align with the governor’s order: no gathering in groups, stay home in you are sick, maintain six-foot social distancing.
“The school practice season has started, and they needed a facility,” McTrustry said. “Once the governor opened us back up, I just had to go on and see what the requirements were and go from there.”
The maximum occupancy for the tennis courts is four players per court and an additional coach per court, for a maximum of 20 people. The basketball courts are also reopened for tennis and pickleball games.While masks are not required for the players, coaches or advisors are recommended to wear masks.
Many residents are critical of the decisions made through the village’s cautious approach, but McTrustry believes that they are doing the right things for the long term.
“I’m frustrated as well, but I feel like I have a responsibility to the community and citizens,” McTrustry said. “I know people are frustrated with a cautious move forward. I would really like folks to have something to look forward to in keeping our community as healthy as possible. It’s going to be small steps forward until we’re back to whatever normal looks like.”
Because of the size and wooden construction of the Rainbow Dreamland playground, McTrustry said it would be impossible to keep it sanitized, so it will remain closed along with the other playgrounds in the park. DeWine has not lifted restrictions on playgrounds yet, but plans are being made to sanitize the other playgrounds in the park when restrictions are lifted.
During the pandemic, the village has experienced a number of issues caused by vandals breaking into village property. The police department is aware of the situation, as bathrooms have been broken into, windows have been broken and feces has been spread over park property.
“I think our younger folks are frustrated because the things to do around town aren’t there,” McTrustry said. “I struggle to understand the response, but I don’t think the current situation and the vandalism are unrelated. It’s definitely worse than it is most years.”
If the offenders wish to come forward, no charges will be filed, and they can spend time helping to beautify the park. However, if no one comes forward and the offenders are identified, charges will be filed.
Decisions are still being made about pavilion and building rentals in the park. McTrustry said the village is working on a plan to sanitize the pavilions and a process to sanitize it after each rental. McTrustry said they will continue to take steps moving forward as the governor comes out with new protocols.