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Daily Journal
     April 30, 2020      #44-121 KDJ

Summer on hold: Parks districts canceling most

By Chris Breach

The state’s recently extended “stay at home” order through May 30 to help combat the spread of COVID-19 has prompted the cancellations of many summer events.

“All activities/events have been canceled for this summer,” said Dayna Heitz, Kankakee Valley Park District executive director.

The district announced Friday that its parks will remain closed due to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive order. All facilities will remain closed, including the Ice Valley Centre Ice Arena, the Rec Center, River Road Sports Complex, baseball, football and soccer fields, campgrounds, rental facilities and pavilions. The parks will remain open for walking, running and biking.

“We ask that anyone attending a park location follow the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] social distancing guidelines,” the district’s announcement said. “We will continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation carefully, and the Park District is committed to following the state’s updated policy on social gatherings to continue to help slow and stop the spread of the virus.”

Though park facilities are closed, the boat harbor will open as planned. Patrons are asked to adhere to social distancing and there’s a restriction of no more than two people to a boat. Signs at the harbor will be posted.

Fishing is allowed at the Bird Park Quarry in designated areas on the north end of the quarry and on the fishing pier on the south end. Fishing isn’t allowed on the banks of the quarry for the fisherman’s own safety.

Splash Valley

With the renovation of the Splash Valley water park expected to be completed by mid- to late June, it’s unclear at this point whether the water park will open for patrons.

“The opening of Splash Valley during the pandemic and after is of grave concern,” Heitz said. “The health, safety and welfare of our community are of the utmost important to us.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources plan to meet today to discuss pools, beaches and splash pads.

“Once the board of commissioners have received the governor’s orders and restrictions, along with any possible challenges placed upon us and the financials of the district, they will make a decision in the best interest of all,” Heitz said.

Bourbonnais Township

Bourbonnais Township Park District posted on its website that all facilities remain closed until further notice, but the trails remain open.

“The dog park [at Willowhaven Park] is open too for our members,” said Hollice Clark, BTPD executive director.

All programs were canceled in April and May programs are canceled as well, said Clark. No decision has been made on June programs, though the Family Night Out has been postponed until June 2021.

“We’re holding out hope,” Clark said. “We’re not going to carte blanche cancel anything. We will follow the governor’s proclamation, and we’ll take it week-by-week.”

The start of BTPD’s summer day camp for ages 6-13 has been pushed back to June 15 with the hopes of it being held.

“We’ll follow the CDC’s guidelines,” Clark said. “We’re all waiting for what those will be. We have a lot of space at Perry Farm that we can use for social distancing. We can divide them up into groups.”

If necessary, he also said they can use Willowhaven Park for the camp to help meet the spacing guidelines. Registration for the camp is available online.

Municipal band cancels season

The closing of KVPD's facilities has forced the Kankakee Municipal Band to cancel its summer concert series at the Dan Palzer Pavilion in Bird Park.

The cancellation breaks a decades-long run of the Municipal Band playing on Thursday nights during June, July and August in the park.

"Even during the summer of rain, with Bird Park underwater, the band managed to find dry venues which their faithful fans traveled to and enjoyed the music," said Carol Snyder, who handles publicity for the band.

She said the band's weekly performances will be missed. The band brings musicians from all walks of life together during the summer months to perform under the direction of Michael Snyder to create concerts with a wide variety of musical genres, she said. 

"The Thursday evening concerts give the community an opportunity to experience quality band performances in a beautiful setting for free," she said. "Although the band members understand and appreciate the reasoning behind the cancellations by the park district, they are collectively so very disappointed that they will not be able to share their joy of music with the people of the area this summer.

"However, make no mistake, the group will return better than ever for the summer of 2021!"

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