Salamanca city parks, playgrounds open today at user’s discretion

The Salamanca Common Council approved opening city parks and playgrounds Monday, emphasizing the importance of safety and that users play at their own risk.

SALAMANCA — As parks and playgrounds open today in the city of Salamanca, the Common Council has made one thing perfectly clear: play at your own risk.

The council at their regular meeting Wednesday authorized reopening all city parks for use in accordance with New York Forward phase 3 and phase 4 guidelines.

The council emphasized that any organizations wishing to use the parks must comply with the state’s restrictions and guidelines concerning coronavirus social distancing.

“If there is another family there who isn’t social distancing, then leave,” said Mayor Michael R. Smith. “If you cannot stay safe apart, leave. It just has to be that way.”

Smith said restrooms and concession stands would not be open at this point. He said they can be opened when the CDC and state give the OK. “All we’re doing is following what the experts tell us.”

Youth Bureau Director Sandi Brundage said most places in the state are not opening supervised playgrounds for the summer.

“Knowing that we are not willing to staff them yet, people are going to be out and about on them,” she said. “If you’re supposed to be 6 feet away from another family unit, how do we enforce that?”

Brundage said in phase 3, some moderate, low-risk activities in the city can resume July 6, according to the latest state guidelines she received June 18. However, she said high-risk activities where people cannot social distance are still not allowed, including contact sports such as football and lacrosse.

“How can we enforce social distancing?” she added. “Again, it takes one kid to get sick.”

Brundage said any groups that use the parks must wear masks and sanitize, and there is no food or beverage service. She said everybody has to have an opening plan.

Some council members expressed concern over the legality of whether the city is liable to someone getting sick if the parks and playgrounds are open and everyone must use them at their own risk.

City attorney Eric Weyland reiterated using the “at your own risk” warning and said any organized groups would have to go through the city recreation commission’s application process.

“The concern here is not so much the young people contracting the diseases, but the contracting by young people and taking it home or visiting relatives who are in a high-risk category,” he added.

As part of the council’s resolution, any sports groups wishing to use the parks must obtain approval from the city’s recreation commission, provide a statement from the organization to hold the city harmless, name the city additional insured and obtain waivers from parents for youth leagues.

“Football is not our call,” the mayor said. “Baseball is approved to start July 6.”

Representatives of the local youth baseball and football leagues in attendance were told they must follow the state’s guidelines, and it’s not the city’s decision if or when they can hold contests even if they are allowed to hold practices.

“You guys, as the leaders, be careful,” Smith said. “Be vigilant. One little league kid gets sick, your league just took a really bad turn for the worse.”

Brundage said the youth bureau is also considering reopening the youth center on July 6. There would be a maximum occupancy of 25 people, but no outside adults will be allowed in the building.

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