Crookston Splash Park opening soon? No, Riopelle says

Mike Christopherson

It’s not even officially summer yet, but we’ve already had some exceedingly hot days so far in June, with a couple days eclipsing the 90-degree mark, the kinds of days that under more normal circumstances would have a bunch of children jumping around and staying cool in Crookston’s Splash Park located in at Ray Ecklund Complex (Highland Park/Complex).

But these aren’t normal times, with the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that not a drop of water has flowed at the splash park, and not a single kid has jumped and splashed around.

As City of Crookston and Parks & Recreation officials take all of the required, necessary steps as they reopen facilities as part of the State of Minnesota’s “Phase III” reopening plan, preparedness plans must be developed for facilities like Crookston Sports Center, Crookston Community Pool and the City’s small campground in Central Park. (The pool won’t reopen until July 20 because of renovations in the shower areas.)

But asked at this week’s Crookston Park Board meeting if the splash park will open soon, Parks & Recreation Director Scott Riopelle didn’t hesitate in answering with a “No.”

The outdoor splash pad is different from an enclosed, indoor facility that is allowed to reopen, but, due to social distancing, only at a reduced capacity.

“You can control the people in a facility like the pool, and make sure it’s no more than 50% (as required by Phase III guidelines),” Riopelle explained. “But the splash pad is not like that.”

With the Parks & Rec 2020 budget already tight, he said a staff member would essentially have to be assigned to the splash park to monitor the number of kids there, and would also have to monitor bathroom usage at the adjacent building, to make sure only one person at a time is using the restroom. Frequent disinfecting of the restroom would also be necessary, and that would likely be the case for the water features on the splash pad itself. “That would be difficult as far as disinfecting,” Riopelle said.

Phase III criteria also require that people arriving at a facility be somehow screened or at least observed for possible illness. That could involve an actual quick swipe of a device to check temperature, or just monitoring for visual cues that would indicate someone is ill. It’s possible that such a staging area to screen splash park visitors could be located right next to the building, so a staff member could handle those duties while also monitoring the restroom, but Riopelle said it’s a challenge.

“I’m not saying we don’t want to do this but they make it pretty difficult for us to make things work,” he added.