TUpdate 3/13: From end of business on March 15 through March 29, all Bend Park and Recreation facilities will be closed. This includes Juniper Swim & Fitness Center, The Pavilion, Art Station, Bend Senior Center, District Office and Park Services.
Facilities will continue to have administrative staff in the buildings but will not be open to the public. Programs scheduled at non-district locations will also be closed during the temporary closure. This does not apply to parks, trails and athletic fields.
oday the Bend Park and Recreation District held an emergency board meeting to further discuss the organization’s plan of action while the coronavirus is still impacting the community. The announcement came following the previous decision to suspend activity at the Bend Senior Center (effective tonight at 5pm), among a few other smaller recreational activity cancellations.
At the meeting, it was first announced that while Governor Kate Brown's mandate on school is in effect, Kids INC. will be canceled. By the end of the meeting, it seemed BPRD was heavily-considering a full closure of all facilities and activities.
- Isaac Biehl
- The Bend Park and Recreation Board convenes for its emergency meeting.
To make this decision, the board needs to weigh a lot of factors.
“Obviously if there’s no school, there’s no Kids INC.,” said Matt Mercer, Director of Recreation. “We have a little bit of time. But once March 30 starts, our spring programming begins. We could cancel programs and keep facilities open, but we can’t close facilities and keep programming.”
Rec-facilities in Bend draw pretty high numbers. During open skate at the Pavilion, numbers can reach up to or 150 or more. And the average age at Juniper Swim & Fitness is a broad range, which makes the decision to keep facilities open even more difficult. So does the factor of social distancing. With these programs or facilities open, it becomes harder to ensure that distancing and health practices are properly met.
“If children get exposed, they’re just going to bring it back to their parents, grandparents, whoever,” said Board Chair Ted Schoenborn.
“My inclination is to go with a full closure,” said board member Deb Schoen.
To pull the trigger on a full closure, the district also needs to consider that there might be a domino effect with families who rely on these activities for care-related reasons, and kids who may rely on these activities for their mental well-being. Not to mention, hundreds of BPRD employees could be out of work for an indefinite amount of time.
“I’m concerned about the families that don’t have any other options, like child care,” said board member Ariel Mendez. “I think it’s a priority to keep staff paid and occupied to the fullest intent possible.”
The district will look at reassigning employees, but Executive Director Don Horton suggested that it would be essentially impossible to reassign 400 people. For families in programs, Horton says the district will offer refunds or credit to a possible enrollment in a future program.
“We’ve already seen a great loss of income from this,” stated Horton. “We have very limited options now.”
For now, Mercer says that Kids INC. employees will receive two-weeks of regular pay while schools are shut down. With a looming, longer shutdown ahead that could lead to mass unemployment, the district says it will not reduce benefits and plans to use reserve funds to work with employees and other needs that may arise.
Barring that, the future is unknown for staff and it is unclear for how long these issues will continue if a full-closure is put in place.
“If we close we’re going to have to rely on the public health offices,” said Horton, regarding the decision to possibly close. “If we do close, I don’t think we’ll open as quickly as we close. I don’t think this is going to be over in a month.”
If facilities did remain open, the district would be leaving the responsibility of healthy decisions to patrons. For example—if there was a confirmed case of coronavirus at Juniper, BPRD would have the option to close and do an intense cleaning for three to four days and then reopen. The board did not seem to feel that this was a sustainable or safe option.
“My feeling—I think I agree with Deb. If there’s uncertainty in our decisions where this balance lies, then we need to close,” said board member Nathan Hovekamp. “It’s going to be incredibly disruptive. But it is that primary concern we need worry about.”
If more facilities and programs close, one thing BPRD will keep open are its parks and trails. There may be potential restrictions on playgrounds, but parks and trails will stay open to provide healthy and generally safe outdoor activity.
“My biggest concern is how long this is going to last,” said Horton.
Due to these concerns and a shifted agenda, next week’s board meeting will be canceled. The board was set to discuss the approval of the MOU in regards to Mirror Pond. Unless there’s another emergency meeting, the board won’t reconvene until April 7.
And see updated stories, including event cancellations, at our COVID-19 HQ page.