Cullman County Parks and Rec: ‘We want to wait until people feel comfortable getting back out’

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Sportsman Lake Park is seen on Friday, April 17, 2020. (Brett Patterson for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many community events, parties, weddings and other gatherings to be put on hold. The county’s parks are often the location for these activities and what generates the money to operate and maintain the parks. Cullman County Parks and Recreation Director Doug Davenport isn’t sure when anything will return to normal.

“We have canceled Smith (Lake Park’s) and Sportsman (Lake Park’s) yard sale. We have canceled two rodeos and two barrel races at the Ag Center,” he said. “I have a couple more that are pending. We are just waiting to see what the state is doing. Our guy who does RC racing, that’s a huge event for us, is just waiting to see what the governor’s announcement is. They have people come in from Australia and different countries for that stuff.”

All the night rides at Stony Lonesome OHV Park have been canceled, playgrounds are closed, cabins and pavilions can’t be rented.

Davenport added, “We had to give refunds for people who had the activity center rented for receptions at Sportsman and had pavilions rented. That’s been kind of a task to get ahold of everybody and tried to get them to either reschedule or get their information to get them a refund on it.”

Davenport said his department hopes families will reschedule their events after the restrictions are lifted, but many of the events will not be rescheduled.

“We have just canceled the 5Ks because there are so many 5Ks going on now with the Midnight Run that the City (Cullman City Parks, Recreation and Sports Tourism) puts on and they have one again during the Strawberry Festival,” he said. “There’s so many 5Ks, it’s hard to the reschedule those. We just canceled both the Mud Run and the Color Run until next year.”

Spring is normally a time when the parks would be in the process of training and hiring lifeguards for the summer pool season. The uncertainty of the duration of the Stay at Home Order has left opening the pool in question also.

“I don’t want to get some kid’s hopes up to get them trained and certified and then there’s the possibility we don’t even get to open the pool. If they drag this thing on and it’s not even a full season, I don’t know if kids would even go through the hassle of getting certified.”

Right now, it’s hard for Davenport and his staff to know when they can make plans and or schedule events for the remainder of the year.

“We’ve just kind of tabled everything for right now until we can see how it all comes together,” he said. “We want to wait until people feel comfortable getting back out.”

The parks do remain open, but Davenport reminds everyone that the playgrounds are off limits and no groups of more than 10 people can gather.

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Sportsman Lake Park is seen on Friday, April 17, 2020. (Brett Patterson for The Cullman Tribune)