The Yazoo Parks & Recreation Board called a special meeting Wednesday evening to approve a formal request that the city amend the ordinance outlining COVID-19 restrictions to allow the parks to reopen.
The special meeting followed the city's meeting Monday where no action was taken on the subject. Many residents have been urging the city to allow the parks to open in time for the youth baseball and softball seasons to take place.
The opening of Yazoo City parks sparked a heated discussion among the Board of Mayor and Aldermen during its regular meeting Monday. And although the majority of the city council said all the Parks and Recreation Commission has to do is make a formal request, Parks Director Greg Shaffer said he has received no word from city leaders about what the commission needs to do to get the ball rolling.
The city council admitted during its open meeting that they have been receiving many phone calls about opening the city parks.
“They need to take it to Parks and Rec.,” said Alderman Ron Johnson. “Then Parks and Rec. come here. They are trying to poll us. Take it to the proper channels first. And then we will see about it.”
“Parks and Rec. don’t want to do it,” added Mayor Diane Delaware. “So, they put it on us. I have got the calls where they have put it on us. Parks and Rec. needs to come in here with a formal request at a meeting.”
But Shaffer said he has not received any notification from the city board about the procedure required to open the parks in the midst of the city’s COVID restrictions, which prohibits gatherings of more than ten people.
“I can’t speak for everyone on my board, but I believe the majority of the board would be in favor of opening the parks,” Shaffer said. “But there has been no communication from the city. What was discussed during the city council meeting was the first time of us hearing about it.”
A member of the Parks and Recreation Commission Board told The Yazoo Herald that they intend to submit a formal request to be included on the agenda at the next city council meeting to present a reopening plan.
Alderman Sir Johnathan Rucker said he believes people are trying to shift responsibility onto others.
“There is a missing piece and confusion,” Rucker said. “Is this on this board or on Parks and Rec.? I understand our ordinance, but why is up to us to say when (they can open parks)?”
Rucker said a protest rally was held at the Wardell Leach Recreational Complex last year, following the death of George Floyd. He said he had nothing against the rally being held. But he did take issue that an exception was made without approval from the city council. He questioned as to why opening the parks isn’t being given the same exception.
“When they had that rally at Wardell Leach Park, it did not come before this board,” Rucker said. “There were more than ten people out there. Parks and Rec. approved that, so why do they have to come before us? We were even giving out Popeye’s chicken (during the rally), which I’m fine with that. But we are not fair and consistent with these orders.”
“The world was in an upheaval,” Delaware replied. “People were marching. George Floyd has just got killed, and an exception was made. We all knew it happened.”
Rucker questioned why exceptions are made for one group, but not another. He said it is unfair to pick and choose when to apply the city-enforced restrictions.
“We have to be consistent,” he said. “It is going to come back and bite us.”
Earlier in the meeting, Coach Dewey Shaifer made a presentation during the public comment section of the council meeting, requesting that the city council allow the Yazoo City High School softball team to utilize the softball fields at Wardell Leach Recreational Complex for their program.
The city council said they would “keep in touch.”
Shaffer also asked if he needed to remain at the city council meeting to discuss parks and recreation. He was told there was no need to remain at the meeting, adding that they would keep him “informed.”