Parks within Yazoo City have been closed for several months. But many communities surrounding Yazoo County and beyond have reopened their parks with “little if any problems.”
Many citizens have voiced concerns over the closure of the city parks, fearful that many of the existing programs may have a hard time to recover if the parks remain closed to the public. Many families have resorted to traveling to other communities to participate in their vibrant programs.
And many citizens are worried about the local youth who have depended on the local parks for recreation. With no accessibility to surrounding communities, those children have no access to parks and recreation.
Communities that have reopened their parks include Vicksburg, Clinton, Ridgeland, Madison, Brandon, Tupelo and Oxford.
The city of Madison closed their parks briefly last March through April. But they have since reopened, following the safety guidelines set by the state government.
John Sidney North, director of the Ridgeland Parks and Recreation, has close ties to the local parks and recreation commission. His father, John North, was the former director of the Yazoo parks system for several years. He spoke with The Yazoo Herald about what the city of Ridgeland has been doing with its parks and recreation. And he said it has been working.
“We did close our parks when we had the government shutdown, but we reopened on June 1,” North said. “We took several measures to follow social distancing and encourage safety. We took our bleachers out and asked that people bring their own lawn chairs and that families stay among themselves.”
The Ridgeland Parks and Recreation have held it baseball, softball, soccer and flag football seasons. North said they did cancel its basketball program because it was harder to follow guidelines in the local school gymnasiums.
The little league program within Ridgeland held tournaments last year, and those tournaments will begin again next month.
“We did delay our little league program last year by a couple of months,” North said. “And we asked that coaches not huddle but spread out when speaking to their teams. It worked for us.”
North added that he left many decisions with the community’s parents on their participation with the recreation programs. Participation with the Madison-Ridgeland Youth Club, a baseball program, did decrease in the midst of the COVID pandemic. The program typically has 1,500 boys playing. But 150 players did not play at the wish of their parents.
“We let adults be adults and make those decisions for their families,” North said. “But we are able to practice social distancing without everybody being on top of everybody else. It is up to the parents if they want to participate.”
During little league, North said the dugouts are sanitized in between each game, and restrooms are sanitized routinely.
“There is no reason why Yazoo City shouldn’t their kids use to the parks to play sports,” North said. “These are outside activities, and even schools are holding their athletic programs. If you don’t want to move the bleachers, rope them off. You might want to consider not having concessions. Or if you do, have sealed drinks and snacks in individual packages. There are ways to adjust during this time. But the kids need to be doing something.”
North admits the Ridgeland programs have gained participation from Yazoo families. Some Yazooans are even helping with coaching. And those families spend money in Ridgeland while they are traveling to play.
“You just have to be smart about it, and people have been around long enough to know what they need to do,” North said. “We have opened, and we have had no problems. But those kids, especially the ones in Yazoo City who can’t travel, need to be playing sports. Otherwise, they might be doing something unproductive, which is not good for any community.”