Watertown Parks Remain Closed, But Gradual Reopening Could Start Soon

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Charlie Breitrose

Filippello Park.

Watertown’s parks, like Filippello Park, are empty these days due to the COVID-19 shutdown, but they may slowly reopen in coming weeks.

Recreation Department Director Peter Centola spends parts of his day driving around town asking people to leave Watertown’s parks, fields and playgrounds which are closed by COVID-19, but he may soon be welcoming visitors to the Town’s Recreation facilities.

On Monday, May 18, Gov. Charlie Baker is expected to unveil his plans for reopening Massachusetts from its COVID-19 shutdown, and Centola said he hopes that will allow a partial reopening of Watertown’s parks and recreational facilities.

Town officials have started looking at what could be possible, while still maintaining social distancing.

“I don’t think could go from zero to 60,” Centola said. “We have to be conservative.”

How the reopening of parks, fields and play grounds looks will depend on the Governor’s guidelines, as well as guidance from the Watertown Health Department, the Town Manager and Town Council, Centola said.

“The directive is going to come out Monday,” Centola said. “Our government needs to review it and see what’s right for Watertown. I don’t see the parks opening for another week.”

Watertown Recreation staff has also been in contact with other towns in the area to find out what their re-opening plans look like. Quincy is one of the first communities in the Boston area to reopen its facilities. They have put in restrictions limiting how parks and facilities can be used, including how many people can be in a park at once, one person shooting on a basketball hoop at a time, and only two people on a tennis court at once, according to WCVB Channel 5. They also instituted reservations for facilities. Quincy’s playgrounds remain closed.

Some restrictions on Watertown park users could include wearing masks, staying six-feet apart and other social distancing measures, Centola said. The parks won’t be open for business as usual, Centola said, but “Hopefully, people can get out and get some fresh air, throw a frisbee, fly a kite.” 

Farther into the future, the Recreation Department is looking at possible summer programs. Centola has been having virtual meetings with the summer staff.

“All the programs we do this summer are going to be looking a little different, unless something dramatically changes,” Centola said.

The Pequossette summer program is supposed to be at the Watertown High School this year because of repairs at Watertown Middle School and construction starting at Hosmer Elementary School. How the Recreation program will look will depend on what else is going on at the high school.

“We are waiting on the schools to see if they are going to do summer school virtually, or in person,” Centola said.

The summer tennis program could also take place, Centola said, but perhaps spreading participants out.

4 thoughts on “Watertown Parks Remain Closed, But Gradual Reopening Could Start Soon

  1. Peter, I commend you and I’m glad to hear that, at this point at least, you are taking a conservative approach on reopening parks. I don’t envy you dealing with this terribly slippery slope. Aside from the obvious, one of my fears is that reopening will turn into a “free for all”. Unfortunately, I believe that “policing” will be a requirement for whatever reopening strategy is chosen.

  2. Two months of little education for children – and it is now the summer and there will be no education – and there has been little or no physical activity for kids of all ages and also adults.

    Has anyone calculated the costs incurred by their minds and bodies?

  3. With the good weather coming and the frustrations that parents are dealing with by having their children home all the time with them, it is important that they be able to take them to the parks and ride on the swings, go down the slides, etc. If you let those parents be responsible on their own and bring their own disinfectant wipes, this would be helpful. I know Quincy is setting up times for people to use the tennis and basketball courts as mentioned above. Years ago young people had jobs working in the parks to help supervise activities for young people. With the need for extra money in some families if parents are not working, this extra pay would help everyone out. We have to start taking PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for our own lives like we always did in the past. Those who are older or have immune problems know or should know what they should do. Young people are not as prone to having serious problems with the virus and need to be outside in the sun moving around. From what I’ve read, if they get Kawasaki type symptoms, it is very treatable if parents communicate quickly with their doctors. Post signs with the new rules in each park so everyone knows the rules so there is no confusion.

  4. These measured steps are a good idea. They would have been a good idea last week and the week before that. They would have been a good idea in the first place. But they won’t be CONSIDERED an idea good to enact for at least a week. Lunacy.
    I don’t blame the town, it’s all towns—the state. Closing hundreds of acres of open space to individuals, couples, and families, however, was misguided and even dangerous. Patrol the parks to enforce safe behavior, by all means. But walking one’s dog, playing catch, or having a family picnic was always safe behavior. To declare it wasn’t, then one day it is, is to wield power for its own sake. A free people deserve a little more respect.

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