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Clarity provided on splash pad rules amid pandemic enables parks district to open the attraction for the remainder of the summer

JASON CHANEY - The splash pad has been a popular way to cool off for local kids since reopening in mid-July.

When Phase 2 regulations were first released, Crook County Parks and Recreation District leaders wondered if they could open the splash pad.

"There was never any clarity in the beginning on what a splash pad was — if it was an aquatic center, a body of water or a park," said Eli Tomlinson, the district's recreation coordinator.

Without that clarity, district personnel were left to assume that the attraction would be treated like a pool.

"The original assumption was you needed to have social distancing and monitors the whole time it was open," Tomlinson said. "We were trying to find people who were willing to monitor, but the problem was we couldn't find a consistent set of people. We would have had really sporadic hours."

So, while the pool reopened in late June on a limited basis, the splash pad remained closed with its future use this summer left in doubt. Things didn't change until Tomlinson happened to pass through Boardman during a family trip on Fourth of July weekend and noticed that its community splash pad was open.

When he returned to work, he contacted Boardman officials and learned that the regulations had changed, classifying splash pads as parks.

"Parks do not need social distancing monitors," Tomlinson said. "They just need signage asking people to maintain social distancing and wearing a mask if they can't. A caveat to that is it's not required that kids wear masks when they are playing in the splash pad. Families would only need to wear masks if they can't maintain a social distance from another family."

Tomlinson went on to point out that when kids play in the splash pad, they are actually playing in water that contains bleach and chlorine, which neutralizes the coronavirus.

The splash pad reopened July 10, just as the daily temperatures began to soar. And it has been a popular place to go, with families showing up as early as 9 a.m. when the facility first opens for the day.

"We knew that this was something that the community wanted and something that we were trying to find a way to make work," Tomlinson said.

And now that the splash pad is finally open, he is encouraging people to stick to social distancing guidelines and help keep spread of COVID-19 limited.

"We want to do our best to keep the things we have opened open," he said.


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