The grand opening of Chehalis’ Recreation Park and Penny Playground has been postponed until the city is able to invite the entire community, as the county is currently in phase 3 and cannot allow more than 50 people at the park at a time.
“We decided that we’re going to hold off on that grand opening celebrating until we can do it right. We would love you to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the playground as well but we are looking at the same restrictions — 50 people or less and we have a sign with 400 donors on it,” said Lilly Wall, Chehalis’ recreation manager to the city council on Monday afternoon.
After years of planning, the city broke ground on the nearly $4 million park project in August of 2019, according to past Chronicle reporting. Some of the improvements to the park include the installation of turf on the four ballfields, replacement of the roughly 25-year-old Penny Playground equipment, installation of all-weather walkways through the park and many other improvement projects.
There are four baseball fields at Recreation Park that are ready to be used. The city had planned to open the whole park up when Lewis County entered phase 4 but as cases of COVID-19 rise in the county there is more uncertainty around when that will occur.
Local little league teams will be able to start using the Recreation Park ballfields on Tuesday, July 28.
“We are looking at figuring out ways to use that new, beautiful complex during phase 3 and it is challenging. We have to have 50 or less people there at a time — that includes players, coaches, admin, staff. We will have the players and coaches in the center and the spectators at the perimeter of the complex,” Wall said.
Another challenge of opening up the ballfields is filing for tournaments, since teams from counties that are still in phase 1 or phase 2 cannot play in Lewis County, which is currently in phase 3. The ability to hold tournaments at Recreation Park and the resulting increase in tourism revenue was one of the factors that went into the decision to renovate the park and ballfields, according to the Chehalis Foundation website.
“A lot of the teams that would like to come to use our facilities are from counties that are in phase 1 or phase 2. So now we’re are having the challenge of filing for tournaments. We had one scheduled for this weekend and it’s not going to happen,” said Wall.
“The ballfields are basically done. We have some electrical to do in the maintenance building. The playground itself is about two weeks out … I’m thrilled that we can actually see a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Wall.
The city is also facing challenges at the aquatic center and spray park which Wall said usually draws over 200 people to each on a sunny day. She said it is challenging to enforce masks around the pool area and enforce social distancing when kids are in the water.
“We would need to have eight staff on at a time and so only 42 citizens would be able to be at the pool at a time. We are considering all options and doing our best to offer programs but do that wisely and safely and looking at the costs as well,” she said.
More information on Recreation Park and Penny Playground can be found on the Chehalis Foundation’s website at chehalisfoundation.org/projects/parks-recreation/.