The City of Burlington will reopen some parks facilities and is planning to host youth summer camps now that the state is permitting more social interaction during the coronavirus crisis.
Mayor Miro Weinberger said Wednesday afternoon that city dog parks, pickleball and tennis courts, and the Andy A_Dog Williams Skatepark, all of which had been closed to comply with Gov. Phil Scott's "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order, will open this weekend. Basketball courts and playgrounds will remain closed, the mayor said.
"We're gonna do these quarter-turns of the spigot here at the local level," Weinberger said, employing Scott's oft-used analogy. "We've gotta do this. These steps are needed for our collective physical, emotional and economic wellbeing."
The mayor's update came just hours after Scott announced that Vermonters are now permitted to gather in small groups and to participate in outdoor activities as long as they follow physical-distancing, face-masking and hand-washing protocols.
"Having these facilities open has high value," Weinberger said. "We know there's a great desire for activity, for exercise, and these are all outdoor activities."
Burlington also plans to offer summer camps, though the city is waiting on definitive guidance from the state, the mayor said. Scott said earlier Wednesday that he'll address protocols for summer camps either later this week or early next.
"If we can find a way to have as much youth programming going as is safely possible this summer, it's gonna be really good for the community," Weinberger said.
The city is also looking into ways to allow retailers and restaurants to operate outdoors, such as on city sidewalks, to help businesses that have been financially devastated by the pandemic. Weinberger hopes to have a plan in place by Memorial Day Weekend, he said.
Weinberger warned that the city's recovery may not be a linear process: If cases spike —or if Burlingtonians don't heed the governor's order — the city may need to close public facilities again.
"I am not wanting to close down areas again ... unless we have to," he said. "I'm excited that we are in a position that we can be loosening rules here and allowing some additional activities to take place."
The city hopes to restart work on City Hall Park as soon as next week, now that the state has permitted outdoor construction to resume with 10 or fewer workers. Contractors can return to full operations on May 11 if their employees complete a training program.
Weinberger has also spoken to representatives at Brookfield Asset Management, majority owners of the long-stalled CityPlace Burlington project.
While the pandemic has affected operations, "Brookfield has indicated to us that they see the impact as more of a short-term impact than something that fundamentally changes their perspective on the property," the mayor said.
Previously, Brookfield had promised an August 2020 construction start date. Weinberger said he will provide an update on the project at a Burlington City Council meeting later this month.