Many Phoenix-Area Parks, City Halls Reopen as Stay-at-Home Order Expires. Here are City-by-City Details

Article originally posted on AZ Central on May 18, 2020

Parishioners attend Mass at St. Luke Catholic Church in Phoenix May 17, 2020. The church resumed services limited to 25% capacity after state restrictions due to the coronavirus were allowed to expire.

As Arizona’s stay-at-home order expires Friday, city leaders across metro Phoenix are discussing how to reopen city parks and city halls during the new coronavirus health crisis.

Even as Gov. Doug Ducey has given restaurants, gyms, pools and movie theaters the go-ahead to reopen this week, health precautions remain in place.

Cities such as Chandler and Goodyear already have reopened parks and some city facilities. Others, such as Phoenix and Surprise, have held off for safety or financial reasons

Here’s a city-by-city look at reopening plans:

Buckeye

Buckeye isn’t rushing to change how it has operated since mid-March.

The southwest Valley suburb’s aquatics center, recreation center, senior center and both libraries remain closed until further notice. City officials expect to open the city pool and summer programs later in the summer.

The city has strictly limited spending to essential services, such as water, sewer, trash and public safety.

Buckeye leaders are planning a long-term phased reopening. City Hall still is not open to the public and city services are being conducted online and over the phone.

The City Council will keep holding virtual meetings until further notice and employees who can work remotely are encouraged to keep doing so.

Chandler

Chandler was one of the last Valley cities to close libraries and park amenities during the COVID-19 pandemic, and was among the first to reopen them.

The city opened some park amenities, such as sports courts, dog parks and bike and skate parks, in late April and early May and prepared to open other facilities. Crews are installing protective barriers at customer service counters, developing cleaning protocols and implementing other safety measures.

Park ramadas, some sports courts and the clubhouse at the Chandler Tennis Center reopened Wednesday, and the city began taking reservations for athletic fields.

Basketball courts, playgrounds, splash pads and park restrooms will reopen May 16.

Recreational centers will reopen May 18 for drop-in visits with limited programs and small group classes. Nozomi, Mesquite Groves and Desert Oasis aquatic centers will open on May 18 for lap swimming and aqua fit classes. All aquatic centers will be fully operational in June.

The Chandler City Council chambers will reopen to the public on May 28 with restrictions. Only 50 people, including staff, will be allowed in the chambers. An overflow area will be in the lobby.

In June, summer recreation programs for groups of 10 or fewer people will resume, the Chandler Center for the Arts will begin hosting small events and recreation programs at the city’s public housing sites will restart.

The Chandler Senior Center remains closed and fingerprinting services at the police department and passports services at City Hall are unavailable until further notice.

City employees are returning to work based on needs in each department. Some employees are returning full time, some are staggering their schedules so they are on-site two to three days per week and telecommuting the rest of the week and others are mostly working remotely, Matt Burdick, a city spokesman, said.

About 75% of city employees continued to report to work during the pandemic, according to Burdick.

The city will work with employees who have underlying health conditions to implement safety precautions and continue to allow them to work remotely, when feasible, he said.

Employees who are unable to work can use expanded leave benefits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, a federal program that provides employees affected by COVID-19 two weeks of emergency paid sick leave. Staff also can take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act or use other time off they have available.

El Mirage

El Mirage will reopen City Hall and most public facilities including city parks, ramadas and dog parks on May 18.

The skate park, field and facility rentals, basketball courts, and playgrounds at city parks will remain closed as city leaders discuss guidelines for reopening.

The El Mirage Senior Center will stay closed until it is safe for seniors to congregate in groups of 10 or more.

City Hall, customer service, and police administrative offices will be open to the public from 7 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and by appointment.

The fire department administrative offices will remain closed to visitors, although some non-emergency services such as car seat installation and fire inspections are offered by appointment.

El Mirage Municipal Court will remain open with modified lobby hours from 8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Thursday.

The City Council will meet May 19 with limited public attendance to meet health guidelines.

Gilbert

Gilbert is developing a phased reopening plan for all city facilities and programs. For now, the town has a phased plan to reopen park facilities and recreation programs.

A number of park amenities reopened May 8, including ramadas and paths at Gilbert Regional Park, tennis courts, Cosmo Dog Park, Crossroads Park’s dog area, Freestone Skate Park and parks restrooms. Playgrounds, splash pads and other sports courts remain closed for now.

Other amenities will reopen in a staggered fashion:

  • Freestone Recreation Center’s playgrounds and courts will reopen May 15.
  • McQueen Park Activity Center’s gym will reopen May 18.
  • Field, ramada and room rentals will resume May 22.
  • Gilbert community pools will reopen May 23.

Gilbert will offer a limited number of summer programs, including swim lessons. Offerings will be available online on May 22, with registration open to residents on May 27 and nonresidents on May 28. Classes will start on June 8.

The town has a phased approach for bringing remote employees back to the office. As of now, the majority of the town’s workforce who are currently working remotely will continue to do so.

  • Starting May 15: Current public safety and field staff remained on site. Recreation and aquatic center staff returned to the office.
  • Starting June 1: Up to 25% of remote workforce return to the office.
  • Starting TBD: Up to 40% of remote workforce return to the office. Additional employees will eventually go back to the office.

Gilbert’s council meetings and other public meetings will remain virtual.

Gilbert Municipal Court will resume services on June 1. Everyone entering the court building will be required to wear “at least a cloth mask” and all visitors will also be required to undergo a brief health screening survey, in addition to other mitigation measures.

The town’s household hazardous waste facility and swap shop are scheduled to reopen on June 1.

Glendale

City officials expect to reopen other recreational facilities including Foothills Recreation & Aquatics Center in June. They will continue to evaluate the current health situation before making a final decision on opening the Glendale Adult Center.

“Protecting those most vulnerable to the virus will be the overriding factor in opening that facility,” a city statement read.

The public will be able to attend City Council Meetings and Board and Commission meetings in person beginning May 26. The city plans to reopen City Hall as well as the police and court lobbies in early June.

The Main Library offers a “walk-through service” during limited hours that allows a limited number of people to browse and check out books and DVDs. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

The city plans to offer similar services at Foothills, Velma Teague and Heroes Regional Park Branches in early June.

City employees will find thermometer testing stations and more hand sanitizer as they return to the office, according to the city press. Visitors also will notice more frequent cleanings at all city facilities.

City park rangers and code enforcement officers will monitor public facilities to enforce social distancing guidelines and break up groups larger than 10 people.

Goodyear

Public meetings for the City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission will soon be open for in-person attendance. The public can attend City Council meetings starting June 8 and Planning and Zoning Commission meetings starting June 10.

Basketball, volleyball, pickleball and tennis courts have all reopened with signs that promote social distancing. The Roscoe Dog Park and all park playgrounds and restrooms also have reopened.

The Goodyear Community Pool, the splash pad at Goodyear Community Park and Goodyear Skatepark will all reopen May 23 with physical distancing.

Many city employees will continue to work from home as the city reopens. Employees who interact with the public indoors are required to wear face masks. Employees will be checked for symptoms at the start of each shift and thermometers will be placed in every city department.

Mesa

Mesa has planned a phased reopening for city parks and recreation facilities.

The following will reopen June 1:

  • Park playgrounds, splash pads and ramadas.
  • Pickleball, tennis, volleyball and basketball courts for drop-in use.
  • Red Mountain Center will open with reservations to accommodate limited hours and capacity. No fitness classes yet.
  • Skyline and Kino pools will open for reservation lap swim and some swim lessons and team practice.

Starting June 29, more facilities will reopen, including park restrooms, two more pools and community and recreation centers for modified summer camps and programs.

There is no time frame for libraries to reopen, although the city has started a drive-by book pickup program.

The phased plan will see smaller groups of employees coming back to the office, according to City Manager Chris Brady. No time frame was given for when employees will return.

“We are writing the policy as we go along in the pandemic,” Brady said. “Before now, there was never a specific written management policy because we (or any U.S. city) never faced this type of situation before.”

Brady said 80% of the city’s workforce continues to come into the office to work, including police, fire, field workers, sanitation workers and maintenance workers.

Council meetings will not be held in-person until August, after the summer break. They will continue remotely on Zoom video until then.

Peoria

Peoria plans to reopen City Hall and other city facilities on May 18, with restrictions including sanitation measures and occupancy limits for social distancing.

The city has a three-phased reopening plan, which saw some employees return to work on May 11 to prepare for the May 18 opening. All city facilities, including all libraries and the Rio Vista Recreation Center, will reopen then.

Employees can request face masks and temperature checks on their return to city offices.

Public meetings, such as for the City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission, will continue to be held online until further notice.

Summer programs, like aquatics and sports, are delayed until further notice.

Phoenix

There is no date for Phoenix facilities to fully reopen as city leaders work to ensure they are not putting employees and residents at risk, according to Shelly Jamison, a spokeswoman for the city manager.

Jamison said some employees may continue to work from home past May 15, the day Gov. Doug Ducey’s stay-at-home order expires.

City leaders are discussing what safety measures employees should take, and making sure they have enough personal protective equipment, as they serve the public.

“We’re interested as everyone else is to get back to normal, but we don’t want to rush,” she said. “We don’t want to compromise the safety of employees and residents.”

Pools operated by Phoenix likely won’t open until June, although Ducey this week said public pools could reopen May 13.

The city’s 29 pools normally open in late May.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department will work with the City Council to create a plan to safely open pools, Gregg Bach, a city spokesman, said.

It will take another 30 days after the council’s green light for the city to hire and train staff and prepare its pools for swimmers, Bach said.

The city’s 185 parks are open with some restrictions for “high-touch points” as for playgrounds, basketball courts, volleyball courts, restrooms and picnic tables. Bach said there is no definite date for when these restrictions will be lifted.

He also said there is no date for when recreational and youth sports leagues will resume. Sports leagues and events are on “pause until it’s safe for large groups” to use the parks’ amenities, Bach said.

In the meantime, he said, park green spaces and city-run trails can be used as long as people follow social distancing guidelines. He said golf courses are open but employees are limiting the number of people who can enter the golf shops.

Scottsdale

Scottsdale’s tennis courts, pickleball courts and skate parks reopened on May 8. The city is finalizing plans for a phased approach to reopen pools, as well as other public buildings, amenities and programs, city spokesman Kelly Corsette said.

Cactus, Eldorado and McDowell Mountain Ranch Aquatic Centers will open for lap swim only on May 26. Swim lessons, recreation swim and recreation dive teams practice will begin the week of June 22. The workout centers at aquatic centers will stay closed as the city finalizes reopening plans.

Chaparral Pool, Scottsdale’s non-heated pool that typically opens in the summer, will remain closed.

Most city employees, whose jobs couldn’t be done remotely, have reported to work throughout the pandemic, Corsette said. A plan for remaining staffers to return to city offices still is being hammered out.

The city has installed plastic shields, floor markings to create distance and more hand sanitizer dispensers in city facilities.

Employees and members of the public will be encouraged to wear nose and face coverings where physical distancing is not possible, Corsette said.

The Scottsdale City Council and key staff members will meet in person on May 19. Residents won’t be able to physically attend the council meeting, although they can continue to watch online or on the city’s cable Channel 11 and comment in advance via email or on the city’s website.

Corsette said the city did not know when residents would be able to attend meetings, but seating adjustments were being made in the City Hall Kiva to allow for social distancing.

Surprise

Surprise leaders are working on a phased reopening plan. Employees who can work from home can continue to do so with a supervisor’s approval.

Surprise will keep its pools, gyms and fitness centers closed until further notice, despite Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order that allowed them to reopen on May 13. The city’s splash pads also will remain closed for now.

City officials cited the financial strain of reopening the facilities.

“Opening our pools takes staff, including coaches and lifeguards, and chemical costs to treat the water,” spokeswoman Virginia Mungovan wrote in an email. “The fees we charge our residents for recreation programs don’t recover the true costs to operate as we see these as quality of life amenities.”

The northwest Valley suburb is opening some amenities that allow for social distancing.

The Surprise Tennis and Racquet Complex, pickleball courts at Surprise Community Park and dog parks will reopen May 15 with limited hours.

The City Council never stopped meeting in person, but members of the public weren’t allowed to physically attend meetings. Instead, they had to submit questions and comments over email or by phone.

Tempe

Mayor Mark Mitchell issued a proclamation on May 13 calling for the city’s tennis courts, pickleball courts, disc golf courses and bike and skate parks to reopen, although most city facilities remain closed. Still closed are playgrounds, splash pads, exercise equipment, ramadas, dog parks and basketball and volleyball courts.

Park visitors are required to maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet, and avoid groups larger than 10 people.

City-operated pools, gyms and other indoor recreation facilities remain closed until further notice.

There is also no time frame yet for the reopening of the Tempe Public Library, the city’s multigenerational centers, arts centers or City Hall. City Council meetings will continue to be broadcast virtually for now.

A city committee assigned to develop a reopening plan recommended that Tempe wait until mid-June to gradually reopen city facilities and allow employees to return to work. That would give the city time to examine what effect the reopening of restaurants, retailers and other businesses have had on the number of cases in the community, the committee told the Tempe City Council on May 14.

The city will screen employees for COVID-19-like symptoms, including temperature checks when they report to work. Employees with temperatures above 100.4 degrees or other symptoms unrelated to a preexisting condition will be sent home. Employees who refuse to go through the screening process won’t be allowed to work and will be placed on unpaid administrative leave.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Tempe has put health and safety above all else to protect our residents and staff,” Mitchell said in a statement on Wednesday. “That commitment will continue as we work to develop a reopening plan that works for Tempe residents, businesses and city staff.”

Tolleson

Tolleson City Hall will reopen on May 18. Other city facilities will open later at a to-be-determined date.

Queen Creek

Queen Creek opened all park amenities on May 13, the day Ducey’s order allowed pools and other amenities to reopen. Parks have signs up encouraging visitors to stay six feet away from each other and to avoid groups of 10 or more people.

Town officials worked with sports partners to restart field rentals beginning May 16. Field rentals must comply with CDC guidelines. Ramada reservations can be reserved now for dates after June 1.

Queen Creek is in the process of finalizing a phased reopening of other town facilities, according to spokeswoman Constance Halonen-Wilson.

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