Spe­cial Ar­eas lift­ing some re­stric­tion in re­gion’s parks

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - SPECIAL AREAS - By Ryan Dahlman

The Spe­cial Ar­eas parks are open for busi­ness, just not all ser­vices are to­tally func­tion­ing yet due to pro­vin­cial re­stric­tions… but they’re com­ing.

One of those peo­ple who is en­sur­ing safety for the pub­lic as best as pos­si­ble is John Arm­strong.

Arm­strong is a Com­mu­nity Peace Of­fi­cer for Spe­cial Ar­eas and ac­cord­ing to the Spe­cial Ar­eas web­site “fo­cuses on en­force­ment ac­tiv­i­ties in mu­nic­i­pal parks, (he) is re­spon­si­ble for pro­tect­ing park prop­erty, main­tain­ing the pub­lic peace and help­ing en­sure the safe and se­cure use of mu­nic­i­pal parks for all users. Of­fi­cer Arm­strong also acts as Su­per­vi­sor for the Board’s mu­nic­i­pal parks, co­or­di­nat­ing all fish­ery ac­tiv­i­ties with agency rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Al­berta En­vi­ron­ment & Parks.”

In other words, he is ex­tremely busy. Blood In­dian Park, Prairie Oa­sis Park, and Goose­berry Park are the main re­gional parks within Spe­cial Ar­eas. Like the rest of the prov­ince, the pan­demic has greatly changed ev­ery­one’s sum­mers and hol­i­day time.

It has been a chal­leng­ing start to the sum­mer sea­son. With rev­enue be­ing down as ini­tially of­fi­cially parks were told that they would re­main closed for the rest of the sum­mer, it has been a chal­lenge to get ev­ery­thing go­ing again. Not a lot of no­tice was given af­ter the gov­ern­ment re­versed its de­ci­sion, but Arm­strong and his smaller than nor­mal crew have been dili­gently work­ing hard to get ev­ery­thing prepped. It started with some re­stricted lifted May long week­end where park gates were opened.

“We went from no campers at all to a lot of camp­ing,” ex­plains a busy Arm­strong. “We liked to be pre­pared. “We’re ready (though).”

Arm­strong says the staff is down be­cause they didn’t hire ear­lier due to pan­demic con­cerns. The po­ten­tial staff for­tu­nately got work else­where but when re­stric­tions were lifted, it left many peo­ple like Arm­strong in a bit of bind.

For­tu­nately his staff has been work­ing ex­tremely hard to get things done. Large group camp­site for ex­am­ple are now able to be re­serve. Prairie Oa­sis Camp Kitchen Site and the Bull­pound Loop Group Site (403-854-5625); Goose­berry Lake Park Group Site A and Group Site B (403-577-3523) are now open to have reser­va­tions.

Arm­strong says ev­ery­thing has been san­i­tized and cleaned as much as pos­si­ble and they will do their best to con­tinue to do that but with heavy vol­umes, vis­i­tors will have to take their own pre­cau­tions.

“Our staff wear masks all day, full length gloves…it’s all man­ual,” ex­plains Arm­strong. “We are wearing the cloth masks and we are try­ing to be re­spon­si­ble and wearing the rub­ber gloves and us­ing san­i­tizer on our hands all the time.”

All sites avail­able for pub­lic use will op­er­ate on a first­come, first-serve ba­sis for the 2020 sea­son. For cur­rent park and camp­ground in­for­ma­tion, con­tact the Spe­cial Ar­eas Parks Line at (403) 779-2155.

The fol­low­ing changes will be in ef­fect as of June 12: - All boat launches and mari­nas will be open to pub­lic

use, in­clud­ing at Prairie Oa­sis Park;

- All play­grounds and play ar­eas will be open to pub­lic

use;

- All day use ar­eas will be open to pub­lic use, in­clud­ing at

Prairie Oa­sis Park;

- Camp­ing in tents will be per­mit­ted;

- Small group camp­ing will be per­mit­ted in small group camp­sites.

At Goose­berry Park, camp­ground and day use area is now open to the pub­lic as of June 15. The spray park is not ex­pected to be op­er­a­tional un­til July. Spe­cial Ar­eas is pro­vid­ing op­er­a­tional sup­port for 2020 at the camp­ground and spray park fa­cil­i­ties.

At Blood In­dian Park, the Trad­ing Post will be open­ing on a lim­ited ba­sis as of June 19. The spray park is ex­pected to be op­er­a­tional in July.

At Prairie Oa­sis Park, the Con­ces­sion and Store will be open­ing on a lim­ited ba­sis be­gin­ning June 26.

We en­cour­age all vis­i­tors to our parks and camp­grounds to come pre­pared and to fol­low pub­lic health rec­om­men­da­tions to help limit spread of COVID-19. Fol­low phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing guide­lines by stay­ing 2 me­ters apart from other vis­i­tors, es­pe­cially in day use and high-traf­fic ar­eas. Equip­ment in play­grounds and other pub­lic spa­ces will not be cleaned or san­i­tized be­tween users, so all users should clean hands be­fore and af­ter use. Re­duce con­ges­tion in high-traf­fic ar­eas and re­spect all ca­pac­ity lim­its in fa­cil­i­ties and build­ings.

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