St. Albertans can look forward to swimming lessons, indoor fitness, and summer camps as COVID-19 health restrictions start to lift.
On Friday, the St. Albert Emergency management Advisory Committee met to discuss how city facilities and programs would be opening this summer, with provincial COVID-19 restrictions expected to be fully lifted by mid-July.
Stage 2 restrictions are expected to be lifted by June 10, although many of the city’s facilities are slated to start to reopen on June 14, giving them enough time to see the specific rules and regulations from the province, which often come days after the opening announcements to the press.
Diane Enger, director of recreation and parks for the City of St. Albert, said the city will be taking a phased approach to reopening facilities through the summer.
“We're hoping that this phased approach and returning to more full operations throughout the summer and into the fall will be really welcome for our community. I know our staff are eager to be able to provide all of our programs and services as we have in the past,” Enger said.
“We still need more information to understand specifically what Stage 2 and 3 mean, and we will quickly align to what those are so we can offer as much as we can, as quickly as we can, to the community.”
Right now city staff are being recalled and facilities are getting ready to welcome residents back after a long COVID-19 hiatus.
Servus Place has been closed during Stage 1 of the reopening schedule, which the province is currently in right now, but when Stage 2 hits the city is planning to open the arenas, fields, and gymnasium on June 10 for booked use with sports organizations.
On June 14 the city will be ready to open the Servus Place fitness centre and all other spaces.
“It would be a very structured opening, similar to what we had in the fall, where there's still distancing, there is still group sizes and in some cases reservation of bookings required,” Enger said.
Enger said the city believes they can move to hosting drop-in fitness, but are still asking the province for more clarity.
By Stage 3 Servus Place will be fully open and Enger said they are hoping for a full opening throughout the summer, although the Landrex Water Play Centre is in the midst of a refurbishment and is planned to open in mid-August.
Fitness programs are currently virtual, with outdoor fitness programming in Stage 1, and by Stage 2 the fitness centre at Servus Place will open to one-third of fire-code capacity and groups of 10 with distancing will be allowed. There will be no locker room access right away, but access will be provided as restrictions lift.
“We hope that we are moving toward our full program and services offering throughout the summer, and for Sept. 1 we'll be able to offer all of our previous fitness programs and services,” Enger said.
Fountain Park Recreation Centre and Grosvenor Outdoor Pool are currently closed during Stage 1 but once the province moves into Stage 2, the pools can open on June 14 with limited capacity and scheduled use. In Stage 3 the city expects the pool to have all services and programs up and running again.
For Stage 2, Fountain Park will be open for spontaneous-use reserved activities, such as lane swimming, exercise activities, and aqua fit, all with physical distancing. Drop-in swimming will be allowed if swimmers reserve online first.
“As a family, as long as you distance, we can have several families within the pool at the same time, so very similar to how we were working last fall,” Enger said.
Swimming lessons are slated to start mid-July and the city will increase capacity as restrictions ease.
The Woodlands Water Play Park has been open since the May long weekend with limited capacity and the city plans to have it open until the September long weekend. As restrictions lift the city hopes to be able to increase capacities and open up locker rooms.
St. Albert's artificial turf facility opened on June 1 for booked use for sport groups, and as restrictions lift the city will allow access to locker rooms. Baseball diamonds across the city also opened for bookings June 1.
Outdoor recreation locations, such as boat launches, playgrounds, and the skate park, have been staples during the pandemic, Enger said, although they still have had some restrictions. As the next stages start, the city will lift capacity limits and allow more people in these spaces.
The Iginla and Kinex Arenas will likely open mid-August, but it will be decided based on demand from sport groups. The ice may not go in during the summer because lacrosse teams play on the arenas' floors and the city is still working with sport organizations to see if they are going forward with their seasons.
The city will be offering some summer camps, starting mostly outdoors, and they are looking into the possibility of indoor camps.
“We are still seeking some clarity, but we are planning for to move forward with our openings fairly similar to how we closed last fall,” Enger said.
Food services at both indoor and outdoor recreation facilities will open as the facilities open up to the public.
On Canada Day St. Albertans will likely be able to attend a drive-in movie at Riel Park, watch fireworks, and attend roaming activities throughout the parks with a virtual Canada Day activity guide.
“Our event staff are working really closely with any organizations that are looking at events, so we can see what can be provided as stages are announced,” Engel said.
Farmers' market capacity limits are expected to lift as restrictions ease and the market may be back to normal near mid-summer.
“It should be more of a normal market … once Stage 3 is achieved,” said city manager Kevin Scoble.
During Stage 1, only the Visual Arts Studio is open for independent use by members, but as restrictions lift other cultural spaces will be opening in the city.
By Stage 2 the Visual Arts Studio will open to the public at one-third of fire code capacity.
The lobby and plaza of St. Albert Place will open in Stage 2, with outdoor capacity limits at 20 people. The Arden Theatre will open at one-third of fire code-capacity starting in Stage 2.
The city can start taking bookings for the Arden Theatre, and St. Albert Place plaza and lobby starting in Stage 2, and by Stage 3 they plan to be fully open with no restrictions.
Building Assets and Memories (BAM), a St. Albert youth program, will be able to have outdoor meetings with up to 20 members by Stage 2, and by Stage 3 will be back to regular indoor meetings.
Neighbourhood block parties are not anticipated to begin again until Stage 3.
Performing arts programs don’t start again until mid-July, as they have a natural break in scheduling in June, but the city anticipates providing both virtual and in-person options.
Music, spoken word, and performances are expected to start in Stage 2 and then kick back into full gear in Stage 3.
The province is expected to move into Stage 2 of the reopening plan on June 10, which will allow for a slew of new restrictions to lift, including outdoor gatherings moving from 10 to 20 people, indoor recreation facilities allowed to open at one-third of fire-code capacity, youth activities such as day camps opening with restrictions, and outdoor public gatherings open with a capacity of 150 people.
Stage 3 will kick in two weeks after 70 per cent of Albertans 12 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, which is expected to be effective in late June or early July. This stage will see all restrictions lifted, including a ban on indoor social gatherings.
Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette