City of Scottsbluff reopens playgrounds

Jett Ferguson celebrated his fifth birthday by going to Northwood Park Monday. Scottsbluff opened its playground to the public Friday.

The yellow caution tape has been removed from playground equipment at Scottsbluff’s parks. Kkids are free to climb and slide and swing to their heart’s content — with caution.

City offices and facilities will be gradually reopening over the coming weeks. Playground equipment was opened up Friday, May 22. Due to concerns over the potential spread of the new coronavirus, city offices and playground equipment had been closed to the public since mid-March.

With directed health measures from Gov. Pete Ricketts relaxing some restrictions, the city chose to open up the playground equipment again.

“We thought it was the appropriate time to get our parks back online totally,” interim city manager Rick Kuckkahn said. “We have the police department, when they’re cruising around, they’re making sure there’s not excess number of kids on the equipment. We still encourage, of course, the six-foot distancing and all of that. We didn’t see anything over the weekend that would suggest it was not a good idea.”

Shane Ferguson was among the parents who took advantage of the pleasant weather and open playground equipment Monday at Northwood Park. He said the equipment provides much-needed exercise for kids.

“We’ve needed this so bad,” Ferguson said as his family helped son, Jett, celebrate his fifth birthday. “The kids needed it. We all needed it.”

Most city employees will be getting back to their offices this week.

“We have a plan in place,” Kuckkahn said. “Employees are not coming back to work, they’re coming back to the office. They’ve been working through the whole event. We’re bringing the employees back to their normal work routine here over the next couple of weeks. We want to make sure that we have adequate supplies for them — masks and sanitizing and hand wipes and all of those kinds of things — to make sure that they’re protected as much as reasonably possible.”

The city is still trying to formulate a plan for Lied Scottsbluff Public Library. Kuckkahn said the likely solution will be to have a phone number for the public to call to make an appointment to come in to browse the books or use the library space. Doing so would help prevent large numbers of people from gathering randomly.

“The library, typically, is a gathering place for younger folks, so we want to make sure that we’re not opening up a can of worms in the library by just opening the doors and letting people come in,” Kuckkahn said. “Eventually, obviously, we’re going to be opening it back up.”

In the event that the openings have to be scaled back or reversed, Kuckkahn said the city is prepared.

“We’re trying to ease into all of this, just like the state is easing things,” he said. “We’ll be careful and watch over and monitor what’s going on. If we have to backtrack a little bit, we’ll be able to do that. We know how to do it now. We’ve been through the drill once. We hope that people are careful and we keep going in the direction we’re going.”

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Reporter

Mark McCarthy is a reporter with the Star-Herald and oversees the Gering Courier as editor. He can be reached at 308-632-9049 or via email at mark.mccarthy@starherald.com.

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