WARSAW — Despite cancellation of park-sponsored activities and rental facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Warsaw Parks Department staff is keeping busy.
Warsaw Parks & Recreation Superintendent Larry Plummer said all employees will remain in their original positions and there is no concern about layoffs at this time.
“We still have 80 acres to maintain and 80 flower beds downtown to do maintenance on,” Plummer said. “Maintenance never stops.”
Plummer said maintenance department employees have been trimming trees, taking down trees that were rotted and dangerous, working on forming up sidewalks near the new amphitheater, getting equipment ready for mowing and doing beach cleanup and summer projects.
They will soon be installing swing sets at Kelly Park as part of the Kelly Park project.
“We have ample work for our employees to keep busy and improve our parks,” Plummer said.
Parks Recreation Director Sheila Wieringa and her assistant, Stephanie Schaefer, are working on putting together online programming to aid in keeping children busy and creative, while engaging families, during this time at home.
Wieringa and Schaefer are working on programming for the fall and winter months this year as well as grant applications and keeping in touch with park event sponsors.
Wieringa was hired as administrative assistant for the parks department in 2011 and became recreation director in November 2015. As recreation director, Wieringa is the one who is in charge of making arrangements for park-sponsored activities and events.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Wieringa said of the event cancellations. “Because of the contractual deadlines, and the fact that special event insurance is not covering COVID-19 cancellations, we felt it was the fiscally responsible choice to make the excruciating decision to cancel the rock, blues and country concerts for 2020.”
Warsaw Parks & Recreation staff members are making efforts to remain positive during this difficult time.
“Morale is good. We’re coping just like everyone else,” Plummer said. “Following the recommended guidelines. We have talks each morning to look at the positives and encourage hand-washing and social distancing.”
“This is a first,” Plummer acknowledged. “We have had short-term shutdowns due to storms, floods and other problems, but nothing like this. These are history-making times and we will get through them.”
Wieringa said tentative planning of events for the following year begins almost immediately after the current year.
She is optimistic about 2021.
“Contracts are processed January through March in order to secure entertainment and activities,” Wieringa said. “This unfortunate downtime is giving me the opportunity to focus on making next year’s programming the absolute best it can be.