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Portage boosts access to public spaces and will offer some summer programming
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Portage boosts access to public spaces and will offer some summer programming

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Portage Parks and Recreation and the Portage Public Library will slowly allow more people to access their facilities beginning this week.

The library, on Monday, changed visitor restrictions from six people at one time for 30 minutes and by appointment to 10% capacity or 26 people without time restrictions or appointments.

Parks and Recreation said Monday it will offer the summer programs that allow for social distancing with limited registration beginning in mid-July, including its Summer Playground Program, Creative Craft Corner, Youth Tennis, Youth Dance and Karate.

The Splash Pad at Goodyear Park will open July 13 and private rentals of park shelters will resume July 11.

“We’ll continue to monitor the (public health) situation and hopefully we don’t go backwards,” Parks Director Toby Monogue said. “We’re working closely with Divine Savior Healthcare to find out what they’re seeing (locally) and we still encourage the public to social distance whenever possible and wear masks.”

Library Director Debbie Bird said library staff is tracking patrons as they enter and exit the building and placing signs on the doors when the library reaches maximum capacity. Whether or not the library loosens restrictions even more this summer depends on local and regional COVID-19 infection rates, Bird said.

“I anticipate we’ll stay at 10% for a while because we really don’t want to enter the next phase (25 percent capacity) and then go backwards,” Bird said. “If we have to stay at 10%, at least we’re not going backwards.”

The Columbia County Health Department reported Monday the county has 83 positive infections of the novel coronavirus, up from 37 on May 21 and 60 on June 18. City Administrator Shawn Murphy said the city continues to closely monitor COVID-19 data and Census tracts of Columbia County and will adjust restrictions if local case numbers were to climb significantly.

“Right now it seems fairly stable and we don’t think our loosened restrictions are having an adverse impact,” Murphy said. “We’re still taking a slow and methodical approach to this while keeping an eye on public safety and public health. It’s a delicate balance and maybe we won’t get it right, but we’re sure going to try.”

Murphy said city council members will be separated by Plexiglas dividers whenever they return to in-person meetings (they’re indefinitely meeting remotely) and the dividers will be easily removed and relocated as needed for such things as elections or municipal court proceedings.

Monogue said the city is recommending no more than 100 people assemble at park shelters but won’t enforce such restrictions including the wearing of masks or social distancing at its facilities. City staff will nevertheless monitor the situations in parks and potentially close facilities if and when they seem overcrowded or unsafe.

The city is installing more hand sanitizer stations at parks and will boost cleaning efforts of high-touch areas as more facilities reopen, Monogue said. The city has not yet experienced any problems at Silver Lake Beach without lifeguards present and is making daily stops at the beach for trash pickup. Monogue said he hopes to have lifeguards present at the beach later in the summer, but that will depend on accomplishing lifeguard training at the swimming pool at Rusch Elementary, which is currently closed.

Follow Noah Vernau on Twitter @NoahVernau or contact him at 608-695-4956.

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