North Port city offices are open for some services. But its parks and recreation programs are suspended due to the coronavirus. That includes the Warm Mineral Springs Park, a huge attraction that brings the city some $1.5 million in annual sales.

City Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Laura Ansel shared an update:

“There are more than 400 acres of parkland in the city of North Port. The Department has 41 year-round staff, including part-time staff plus additional seasonal employees. (We have over 30 seasonal lifeguards).

“Over the past few weeks, the city endeavored to follow the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines while still providing the services that were possible to the public. The situation was (and is) fluid and quickly changing, as were the guidelines from the CDC. This meant that our department had to pivot quickly and adapt our action plans, which eventually led to the decision to temporarily close all city parks starting this past Monday.

“The provision of diverse high-quality parks, natural spaces, recreational facilities and programs is part of our mission, and every person on our team is passionate about providing these services to our community. We miss the parks as much as our neighbors.

“But another core part of our mission and vision is enhancing the health and wellness of our city. The safety and health of our residents is our highest priority. We’ll get through this. Times like these help illustrate how important our local parks and natural areas are to the community and we’re looking forward to the day we can celebrate our parks and green spaces together.”

“While it is hard for some to understand, other members of the community have been very understanding and supportive. We hope everyone will voluntarily help slow the (coronavirus) spread for the good of all and stay home unless absolutely necessary.”

Keeping busy

“Although the parks and facilities may be temporarily closed, there is still a need to maintain them. Staff work months in advance to coordinate future events, such as Trick-or-Treat at City Hall or the Poinsettia Parade and Festival, so that is continuing. We’re also evaluating the events that have been cancelled and looking to reschedule wherever possible.

“While in this state of emergency, staff have been wonderful in stepping up to the plate and assisting when or where it is needed, not just within our department. Others are also working hard to develop or share content and projects to encourage our community to ‘recreate at home’ and celebrate the things that bring us together. This includes videos with fun and educational projects, to virtual events and livestreams. Those interested can check out the Parks and Recreation Facebook page to participate or share their suggestions.”

What’s next

“Parks & Recreation will be here and ready to continue providing high quality events, programs, parks, and facilities for our community to enjoy. I think we all will appreciate them just a little bit more.”

Email: craig.garrett@yoursun.com

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