Lawrence Hemingway.

Evanston’s parks director, Lawrence Hemingway, told residents at an online 5th Ward meeting Wednesday night that the COVID-19 pandemic has left the city’s plans for many of its summer recreation programs very much up in the air.

Beaches and boating

He said he hopes that the city’s beaches will be able to open June 20 with restrictions on the number of people allowed on each beach and social distancing rules in effect.

Lifeguards will enforce the social-distancing rules, the director said, and new signage will be posted with the guidelines.

He said that he had hoped to have digital beach tokens available to limit person-to-person contact at the beach entrances, but decided on Wednesday that it wouldn’t be possible “to pull that off this year.”

But the timing of beach openings — and whether there is any beach season — will still depend on whether and how much the state further eases stay-at-home restrictions.

He said the city does plan to open the Church Street boat ramp over the Memorial Day weekend, since the current state ban on boating is one of the restrictions being lifted starting tomorrow. Work to dredge the boat launch is expected to be completed by the holiday, Hemingway added.

Golf, tennis, basketball

Golf courses are also permitted to open May 1, and Hemingway said the staff at the Canal Shores course is working to reopen that facility.

But he said the city’s tennis and basketball courts will remain closed for now

July 4th events

Hemingway said the Evanston 4th of July Association decided Tuesday to cancel this year’s parade and fireworks program on Independence Day, though he said the group is hoping to reschedule the fireworks for later in the year.

All other special events programs are canceled through June 15.

Summer camps

Hemingway says his staff is working on four potential scenarios for summer camp programs.

  1. Summer camps run as usual, opening June 8.
  2. Summer camps state at some later date in the summer.
  3. Summer camps operate with social distancing — which would mean some current registrations might have to be canceled. He said that question is especially challenging for programs involving small children. “How do you social distance little kids?” he asked. “There are no guidelines for that.”
  4. Virtual summer camps. For some programs — like arts and theater programs — it may be possible to distribute supplies in advance and then meet online over the summer.

Further complicating the summer camp situation, the director says, is that District 65, which normally provides space in its schools for many city summer recreation programs, hasn’t decided yet whether to make its buildings available this summer and is waiting for guidance from state school officials about that.

If the school buildings aren’t available, Hemingway said he’s considering running some summer programs at the Levy Senior Center and postponing that building’s opening for regular senior program.s

Hemingway said given all the uncertainty the city will not enforce its deadline of tomorrow for paying the balance due on summer camp registrations.

And, he said, “If the governor comes back out and says shelter at home rules are going to remain in effect through June, we’ll probably end up canceling summer camp programs at this point.”

The Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre’s June show, “Spell #7,” has been postponed until September.

An illuminated sign on a deserted Church Street promotes the Farmers Market Wednesday afternoon.

Farmers market, community gardens

Hemingway said the city’s downtown farmers market will reopen for the season on Saturday, with new social distancing rules in effect.

That’s also the day the city will open community garden plots for gardeners.

But, he said, gardeners will be asked to only visit their plots on alternate days, depending on whether their plot has an odd or even number. And they’ll be asked to not bring neighbors or friends when they come to garden.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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