North Carolina's move into "Phase 2.5" reopens playgrounds, gyms

  • Juliette Norman and Frances Clark were caught having a good time on the playground at the Highlands Rec Park on Monday.
    Juliette Norman and Frances Clark were caught having a good time on the playground at the Highlands Rec Park on Monday.

Highlands Parks and Recreation Director Lester Norris announced several reopenings and one impending closure during the rec committee meeting on Friday.

Norris informed the committee that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s announcement that the state is moving into “Phase 2.5” of the COVID-19 coronavirus management plan allows for multiple rec facilities to unlock their doors.

“Part of the governor’s new order (which took effect on Friday) was that gyms and fitness centers can open at 30 percent capacity,” Norris said. “Because of that, we are ready to reopen the workout rooms with added safety precautions in place.”

Norris noted that all of the Nautilus workout machines will have disinfectant bottles attached to them for use by patrons. There will also be hand sanitizer stations located around the rec center and in the fitness rooms. Masks will be recommended at times when guests are not engaged in strenuous exercise and each person that enters the Rec Center will have their temperature checked at the door.

Along with the fitness rooms, the playground at the rec park is also back in operation. There is a hand sanitizer station at that location, as well as signs encouraging citizens to wear face coverings and practice social distancing of at least six feet.

Highlands Town Manager Josh Ward asked Norris’ his opinion on potentially reopening the basketball gym. 

“That is the one area that I do have concerns about, because there is no way to make 11, 12 and 13 year olds social distance or wear a mask while playing a contact sport like basketball,” Norris said. “Right now the basketball gym’s max capacity is 25 people so I don’t think we are ready to reopen it for basketball yet.”

Norris added that when the gym does reopen for basketball, users will only be able to play using their own equipment. There will be no sharing of balls.

“That is something we have done in the pool, people can only use the toys and things that they bring themselves,” Norris said. “We aren’t passing out any equipment that may end up being used by multiple people.”

Along with the reopenings, Norris announced that the dog park will be closed for approximately two weeks in November while the pavilion is remodeled.

“We talked about using police tape and marking the pavilion as closed but leaving the rest of the park open, but with the extent of the work that needs done over there it’s just best to close the whole facility,” Norris said. “We don’t want to risk having people and their dogs wandering around when the construction crews are using power saws, drills, etc. to complete their work.”

Exact dates for the dog park closure will be made public at a later date and will be posted in advance of the work being completed.