Some city-owned buildings and properties may be opening on May 15, depending on the wishes of those who operate them.
Council brought forward two motions on May 11 which were inspired by the provincial government’s Restart Plan, phase 2.
The first is that “council authorize the safe reopening of city-owned buildings/properties and hard surface courts, including the skateboard park, tennis, basketball, pickle ball, tennis club, RJ Haney Heritage Village, Salmon Arm Art Centre, horseshoe club and lawn bowling to the public in accordance with the Provincial Health Officer’s guidelines effective May 15, 2020.”
The second motion states: “Council authorize the reopening of all city owned playgrounds and spray parks effective May 15, 2020.”
Both were approved by a majority of council in an in-camera meeting.
Coun. Wallace Richmond added a clarification. She said council’s expectation is “not that the doors swing open first order of business on May 15th. This merely gives groups the opportunity to consider it and to do it in the way that they see fit.”
She said work will begin then to get the city-owned facilities going again, however.
Coun. Tim Lavery said he was originally opposed in terms of timeline and phasing in, but based on the community’s response to ongoing restrictions, he has confidence the public will proceed in a responsible way.
Mayor Alan Harrison said the province’s phase 2 begins mid-May, so that’s why council chose May 15. Museums, art galleries and libraries are included in phase 2, so it will be up to their boards and staff when and if they are comfortable and decide to open.
“We are just saying to them that given the situation now, if they do decide to open, following the guidelines while they’re on city property, we would authorize that opening,” he commented.
As for the hard surface courts, Harrison said Dr. Bonnie Henry has repeated that people should get outdoors; the virus is less likely to spread there. He surmises that’s why phase 2 includes mostly outdoor facilities. He expects local clubs included will come up with protocols for their members.
Harrison said he agrees that Salmon Arm residents have done a fantastic job social distancing over the past nine weeks and he expects that to continue.
Regarding the opening of playgrounds and spray parks, he said he has every confidence in families in the city, especially those with small children, that they will take every precaution they can in order to have their children play safely. He is not expecting huge crowds at the playgrounds, because not everyone will be ready to go there yet, “and that’s okay.”
Harrison concluded: “It’s a slow move back, but I think it’s a move that residents of Salmon Arm are ready for.”