No swimming, day camps in Wellington North this summer

WELLINGTON NORTH – Summer day camps and activities at outdoor pools in both Arthur and Mount Forest have been cancelled for the summer, the township has announced.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, the health, safety and well-being of Wellington North residents and staff remains our top priority,” states a May 20 township press release.

“This is why the Township of Wellington North has made the difficult decision to cancel summer recreation programming for the 2020 season; this includes the closure of both the Arthur and Mount Forest outdoor pools and the cancellation of the summer day camp program.”

“At this point in time, we did not feel that we would be able to offer summer camps or aquatics programming in a way that met the necessary physical distancing, cleaning protocols or health and safety standards,” stated councillor Steve McCabe, chair of the township’s recreation, parks and leisure committee.

“By making this decision now, we are hopeful that our summer staff will be able to seek other employment opportunities, and that parents and caregivers will have time to arrange alternative summer care and activities for their children.”

The release states the municipality will continue to investigate alternative family activities as restrictions are lifted and new guidelines are established.

The township is offering a full refund to anyone affected by programming cancellations.

In approving a resolution cancelling the programs at its May 19 meeting, council also directed staff to take the necessary actions to open the township’s splash pad’s in Arthur and Mount Forest based on guidance from the province and public health officials.

Staff was also directed to take the necessary actions to open playgrounds, greenspaces and sports fields in Arthur and Mount Forest based on provincial and public health guidance.

CAO Mike Givens noted at this point, while the province is allowing sports fields to be open, restrictions limiting gatherings to five people are still in place.

He noted a May 19 provincial announcement “was clear in the fact that the fields themselves can be open, but the minor sports activities wouldn’t be eligible at this point.”

McCabe asked why pools would be restricted but splash pads might be okay?

Operations director Matt Aston responded that splash pads “don’t recycle water” the way swimming pools do.

“The idea is it comes through the township water system, it’s chlorinated and it leaves through the drain system,” Aston explained.

McCabe asked if the May 19 provincial statement would impact the township’s plans.

“I don’t think the report recommendation changes as it relates to day camps and pools, but certainly we’ll be following public health and provincial recommendations related to playgrounds, splash pads and sports fields,” Aston responded.

“We’re still leaving the door open to that because this is something that can be activated more quickly than a pool or a summer day camp,” said Mayor Andy Lennox.

“Even though Premier (Doug) Ford said today we want summer day camps to be able to operate, we’re not obligated to do that,” added Lennox.

“And the other thing that we haven’t talked about is … how many parents are going to want to send their kids to a summer day camp? There’s a lot of fear out there in the community as to what this virus means.”

McCabe asked Aston, “I get that we have to protect our residents obviously and our employees as well. Have you heard of any other communities in Wellington County or neighbouring counties that have just closed everything off the way the recommendation is suggesting?”

Aston replied he is aware that Meaford, Walkerton and Alliston have all cancelled either outdoor pool use, day camps or both.

“I just think there’s lots of risk [associated with] opening up those facilities,” Aston stated.