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Wood County parks open for Memorial Day

COVID-19 prompts extra precautions

PARKERSBURG — Local parks will be open for Memorial Day weekend with limitations put in place due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns.

Wood County Commissioners said on Thursday that Fort Boreman Park, Veterans Park and Mountwood Park would be open, per guidelines issued by Gov. Jim Justice’s Office.

The picnic shelters and playgrounds will be roped off and the restrooms will be closed.

“We can’t offer the deep cleaning (after each use),” Commission President Blair Couch said.

The campground at Mountwood Park will be open to West Virginia residents only. The ATV trails will be open to riders, based on guidelines approved by the state for the Hatfield and McCoy State Park trails which include encouraging riders to wear face coverings, screen for COVID-19 symptoms, do temperature checks, ride in limited groups, physical distancing and more.

People have been visiting the park on sunny days, fishing, staying in small family groups and more. People are also bird watching, geo-caching and other activities on the park’s 2,500 acres.

“When it is pretty outside there are 150 cars out at Mountwood,” Couch said. “There are mountain bikers, fishermen, hikers, people playing Frisbee golf and people using the park.

“Mountwood Park is getting more usage now than it has in the last few years.”

The gate at Veterans Park will be open Monday. Couch said people have already been parking outside the gate and walking around the park.

In other business, as other local government bodies begin to look at the financial impact from the lockdowns and places only doing limited business, Couch said the county had already instituted a spending freeze in March, limiting purchases and having to have commission approval for anything over $100.

“We notified all of our department heads and elected officials that critical expenses should be paid, but no extra add ons,” Couch said of expected shortages in incoming revenue. “We don’t have income through sales tax or user fees.

“We know we have gaming revenue, hotel/motel tax revenue and coal severance tax revenue, but we knew when this lockdown started that we were in trouble.”

Commission Jimmy Colombo said they informed officials that money may not be available.

“We told them it might not be there,” he said.

Even when the county passed its budget, officials said nothing was set on how much money would be coming in and that changes might have to take place.

Commissioner Robert Tebay said they are hoping the county does not have another large scale emergency like the IEI fire.

Couch said they are seeing almost every transaction come before them and they have to approve it before it is paid out.

“It is more paperwork for the commission, but we are controlling our spending,” Couch said.

Wood County Prosecutor Pat Lefebure said jury trials will not be conducted until the end of June and they may have to utilize other spaces besides the courtrooms to allow for safe social distancing.

Both Lefebure and Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens said they are both seeing an increase in domestic violence instances, landlord tenant issues and other civil matters as things begin to open up again.

The annual Volcano Days Festival will not be occurring this fall at Mountwood Park as officials were concerned with the lingering impacts and possible second wave of COVID-19 cases.

The Wood County Parks and Recreation Commission, which governs Mountwood Park, met earlier this week and decided to hold the annual festival until 2021.

The festival was originally scheduled to take place Sept. 25-27 at Mountwood Park.

“The employees and the staff at Mountwood had grave concerns that having a crowd out there,” said Couch, who serves on the park board.

The festival has traditionally featured three days of live entertainment, displays of antique engines, historical lectures and tours, a variety of food concessions, a flea market and a craft show. There are usually craft and equipment demonstrations, including a shingle mill, a flea market, apple butter making, wood mizer demonstrations, corn meal grinding, children’s events, bingo, kiddie tractor pulls and other attractions.

Couch said the park relies on help from the people at the Parkersburg Correctional Facility, through work release programs, to be able to put the festival on. Officials were not sure if that help would be available as many places are weighing health concerns in what they do.

He said also the general layout of the festival would mean a lot of people in close proximity to each other as well as the age of a lot of the guests and the people who man vendor tables and do the flywheel and steam engine demonstrations.

Many of those people are in their 70s, one of the at-risk groups for COVID-19, Couch said.

The hope is to come back next year with a bigger festival that people will be excited about coming out to.

“We don’t want to see Volcano Days go away,” Couch said. “We want to see it be safe and be a great event like it always has been.”

Contact Brett Dunlap at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com

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