Uncertainty keeps Sparta summer rec programs in limbo
The Sparta City Council will be determining the fate of the 2020 summer recreation programs and whether the aquatic center will open this season at a special meeting scheduled for Tuesday, May 26.
Parks & Rec Director Brad Gilbertson said he’s been gathering information to present to the council but is frustrated that information changes from day to day.
Gilbertson sits in on virtual meetings that include almost every parks & rec director in the state who are all struggling to figure out what can and can’t be done in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“It’s been a very fluid situation,” he said. “Every day there is new information we’re learning and new guidelines that are coming out.”
Some county health departments, mostly in urban areas, have already canceled summer programs, while the Wisconsin Department of Health has sent out new guidelines saying youth programs shouldn’t take place this summer.
Gilbertson said he’s also spoken to directors in La Crosse, Onalaska and Holmen where the decision has already been made not to open swimming pools. Those decisions, according to Gilbertson, are based on financial reasons and not necessarily that they feel the water is unsafe.
He said precautions for community pools will require smaller crowds, resulting in not enough revenue to make keeping them open viable.
The maximum capacity at the Sparta Aquatic Center is 1,000, but on an average sunny, summer day, 400-plus swimmers use the pool. As guidelines currently stand, only 106 swimmers will be allowed in at one time to ensure social distancing can be adhered to.
While the pool loses money every year, lower numbers will likely add to the taxpayer subsidy of the facility.
Still, Gilbertson said lifeguards have been hired and the pool is being prepared for use, but it will be up to the city council to decide if and when the facility will open to the public.