Anyssa Logan, left, returns a tennis ball to her brother, Leland Maxim, 10, at the Edward Little High School tennis facility Tuesday afternoon. Certain courts are available and others are not to maintain social distancing. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — Recreation officials in Auburn are still planning for a busy summer, even while other regional municipalities like Lewiston have already canceled entire summer programs.

During a presentation to the City Council earlier this week, staff from the Auburn Recreation Department say they are moving ahead with the annual summer “rec” camp for kids, along with other recreational sports leagues. The Auburn adult softball league began games Monday, with safety measures in place, staff said.

They are planning for a summer recreation day camp of some 200 kids, and have developed safety protocols with Auburn public safety personnel. Staff will conduct wellness checks, kids will be divided into groups of 10, and venues will be sanitized each day.

On Monday, adult softball teams played with no dugouts and without sharing equipment. The ball is sanitized between innings.

“It’s going to be a very different softball season to say the least, but it gets people out there and gets them playing,” said Jeremy Gatcomb, recreation superintendent.

Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and state guidance, Lewiston Recreation was among the first to cancel its summer programs. That means no tennis, lacrosse and track and field programs, the Camp Smiles day camp and all swimming at Kennedy Park pool.

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Tucker Hutchinson, center, and his brother, Jacob, right, talk with a Lewiston police officer Wednesday afternoon at the Lewiston skate park in Kennedy Park. After explaining that the park was closed and sympathizing with the boys, the officer told them he wasn’t sure when it would reopen. As of now, the park, the Lewiston High School tennis courts and other parks in Lewiston are scheduled to reopen on June 15. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

With Lewiston and other camps closed, Auburn councilors questioned whether the program could see an influx of kids. Gatcomb said the department originally had 190 campers enrolled, but that the number dropped to 171 once safety protocols were released.

The department usually sees about 250 in the summer, he said.

While many praised the department’s work, and for offering a summer program for kids who have been out of school for months, some councilors questioned whether the heath protocols will be enough.

Councilor Holly Lasagna said she’s concerned that among the health protocols listed, masks are not required for campers.

“These kids are going to go back to school, and this is a chance for them to model good public health, including masking,” she said.

Mayor Jason Levesque responded that the governor’s orders do not require masking for child care programs.

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Others asked what will occur if an outbreak is found, and who will be responsible for making sure the protocols are followed.

Deputy Fire Chief Matt Fifield, who has been working with the department to develop safety measures, said if cases are found, they will limit movement of kids between camp locations. He said they will stick to groups of 10 within camps, and there will be no camp-wide games.

Marc Gosselin, executive director of community partnerships and sports tourism, who has been leading the city’s “economic recovery” efforts, said the program will have a camp nurse this summer for the first time.

“The reason we are opening is because we are confident in those procedures,” he said.

Elsewhere, the cities also differ on how they are handling public recreational facilities.

Edward Little High School’s tennis courts are now open to players with the understanding that social distancing must be maintained, but Lewiston is still waiting to green light the opening of its courts and parks.

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“We never shut down our track and field,” Edward Little athletic director Todd Sampson said. “When we started figuring out the social distancing piece, we wanted to keep the track open for our community members to be able to walk and exercise and be safe, with social distancing.

“With the June 1 direction from the governor and looking at some of the information from the USTA (United States Tennis Association), we put nets on (courts) one and three. So we don’t have a net on the middle courts so people can continue to be socially distant.”

Sampson said the school’s fields were never really shut down when COVID-19 slipped into the Twin Cities.

“We have not put any soccer nets up; no field hockey nets,” Sampson said. “For the most part, and I am at school today, and when I look out, people are being respectful and not out on the fields.”

Sampson said Auburn’s Recreation Department is moving forward and the city allowed adult softball to open the season Monday night..

“Auburn (recreation) is going to start track at our facility on June 15 and Lewiston shut down everything for the summer,” Sampson said. “It is interesting.”

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Auburn’s parks are also open for business.

“We have lifted and removed the closed signs to our park,” Gosselin said this week. “We are not opening any Recreation-related basketball courts at the present time. We do not have a definitive timeline as of yet. We are closely monitoring state requirements.”
Lewiston athletic director Jason Fuller said the reopening of parks and courts depends on a meeting on June 15.

“We are going to re-evaluate on June 15 to make a determination at that date,” Fuller explained.

Lewiston deputy director for highway and open spaces Megan Bates said that it’s likely tennis courts will be open, “if nothing changes.”

“Our skate park will open June 15,” Bates said. “The playground — we’ve not shut down — we just posted all of them with the directives from the governor. … That’s all we’ve done with the playgrounds.”


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