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Neighbors allege lack of social distancing, mask wearing at youth sporting events

PMG PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - CPRD officials say there are taking proper precautions while allowing play at its softball complexes in Newberg.

In the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak connected to the Newberg summer baseball team, another youth sport is drawing the attention of local residents who say they are worried about the dangers games pose to safety and public health.

Every weekend so far this month youth softball tournaments have been held at parks throughout Newberg, drawing crowds of players, families and coaches.

Some residents have contacted the Newberg Graphic to say that the National American Fastpitch Association (NAFA) tournaments — which have been held at Jaquith, Crater and Dundee-Billick parks — are crowded with people not social distancing, wearing masks nor engaging in proper public health protocols as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens throughout the state.

Teams from outside of the Chehalem Valley have traveled to Newberg for the tournaments with families in town. Local teams have participated as well.

"We have two weekends left in the softball tournaments," CPRD spokeswoman Kat Ricker wrote in an email. "CPRD's position is that we are committed to offering these sports recreation activities to those who want them, and we also continue to monitor these activities for safety and compliance."

Compliance has been an issue, according to neighbors who claim to have kept a watchful eye on the various parks. Masks are not required in outdoor spaces according to the governor's order, but are encouraged when social distancing is not possible.

Whether parents and other family members are making the effort to social distance and wear face coverings at these tournaments is unknown, but those who live in the area claim they've seen people not adhering to the rules.

Ricker said CPRD has received very few complaints from the various tournaments, which it will continue to operate. So far, no public announcement of COVID-19 cases has been traced back to these softball tournaments.

"While we still get occasional complaints about social distancing and lack of face coverings — please note, these complaints have been focused on the spectators who are outside the fence at Jaquith and Crater parks — the number of these complaints has reduced since June," Ricker wrote.

"Our sports supervisor, Julie Petersen, continues to work with Benji, the head of NAFA, to ensure that NAFA complies with pertinent regulations and guidelines that include only 25 players per field at a time, players and those inside the fence wearing masks and contact tracing performed every weekend.

"What is newer are the complaints from the residents who live around Dundee-Billick Park, because this is the first instance that this park has been used for the tournaments," Ricker continued. "Those are discussions that we have going on right now, and while some of their concerns have been related to precautions against the pandemic, they are also about the park being overused and inaccessible to them because of the activity. The weekend before last, there were some issues brought to our attention by residents who live directly around this park, which we followed up with NAFA, regarding players recreating inside tennis courts, trash overflow and blockage of walking paths."


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