By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
City of Atmore work crews were at work early Tuesday, re-installing basketball goals at two municipal parks and otherwise preparing for this week’s re-opening of all municipal greenspaces, most of which became accessible to the public again on Tuesday, May 26.
The park re-openings were made a priority after Gov. Kay Ivey announced last week several amendments to her initial Safer at Home Order, including the resumption of activity at public parks and pools, as well as private entertainment and athletic facilities.
“The governor said we could do it,” Mayor Jim Staff said of the decision to take down barricades and put the goals and nets back on backboards in Houston Avery Park and West Park. “Well, let me put it this way: She didn’t say we could, but she didn’t say we couldn’t.”
Schedules, admission prices and hours of operation for the pools at Tom Byrne Park and Houston Avery Park are published on the city’s Facebook page.
Under the governor’s order, public access to local parks could have been granted late Friday. A brief drive-by survey conducted Saturday afternoon indicated no activity at either Tom Byrne or Houston Avery. Heritage Park was also empty, and bare backboards greeted a teen who showed up, basketball under his arm, at West Park.
“We ain’t been playing none for more than a month,” said 16-year-old Trevon Palmer as he turned to head back home. “I’m about ready to get back on the court, get my game back on.”
And, although the playground adjacent to it will be open, kids won’t be able to enjoy Atmore Community Splash Pad until later in the week.
“The splash pad won’t open Tuesday, like the rest of them,” the mayor said last Friday. “There are some issues with it, and it’s probably not going to open until Thursday (May 28).”
Staff said city crews, hampered by the absence of inmate help, are having to double up and do garbage collection duty, slowing the process of getting the basketball goals back up and the parks completely ready for the public.
He agreed that the resumption of normal activities at local parks — although only 50 percent occupancy will be allowed and social distancing will be observed — would help lift the mood of the general public and hopefully cut down the number of complaints about the closure of the city parks.
“It’s big,” he said of the re-opening. “Folks have been wanting these parks open, and now we’re going to open them. I called some of the folks who had called me and fussed at me the most and told them they could get started again. And I don’t think the (COVID-19) virus can live in pool water. I was told it couldn’t.”