PUNTA GORDA — The Punta Gorda City Council gave the go-ahead Wednesday to reopen recreation spots around the city.

As of Friday, the city’s pickleball and tennis courts will be available for play, as well as the Hounds on Henry dog park and the beach at Ponce de Leon Park.

“We’ve been going through social distancing now since March,” said Council Member Debby Carey at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. “If there is anybody left who doesn’t know the value of a face mask and staying 6 feet away ... can we really help them?”

During a special meeting April 30, council members opted to keep these areas closed, waiting to see what Charlotte County decided as far as tennis courts and whether the PicklePlex of Punta Gorda at Florida SouthWestern State College was going to open despite the college being closed through the summer.

“Pickleplex has gotten approval from FSW and is opening Friday,” said Mayor Nancy Prafke. “They already have a plan in place. They are installing nets tomorrow and leaving them slack and then tightening them Friday morning.”

Charlotte County reopened both Port Charlotte and Englewood Beaches April 27. The county also reopened its sports fields and dog parks April 24.

“We have to let people be responsible for themselves,” Carey said. “I never really thought I would say this but I think that if we don’t let them play pickleball, that’s an insult. That’s saying we know you know how to behave out there but you wouldn’t know how to behave at our park. We can’t do that anymore.”

Players and park-goers are expected to maintain social distancing and other guidelines such as no more than 10 people in a group, wash your hands and stay home when feeling ill.

“The understanding is that if social distancing is not followed, (this) can revert back (to closures),” said Vice Mayor Lynne Matthews.

“For weeks now, we have been pounding into everyone the social distancing mantra and staying 6 feet away and wearing masks,” Prafke said, “and so I’m inclined to think that we should give our community an opportunity that they know what they’ve learned.”

Basketball courts, playgrounds and interactive fountains within the city limits will remain closed for now.

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