Children and families will need to wait at least a little longer before they can use the new equipment at Watertown’s Three Forks Community Park.
COVID-19 guidelines have kept the park closed for months, even as its playground was renovated over the summer. Workers are also expected to put down mulch in the near future in anticipation of the reopening.
“I would love to open it soon, but at this point in time I don’t feel comfortable giving a date,” Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings said. “I went back and looked through the governor’s orders, and it says folks using the playground equipment are supposed to have their temperatures taken and that it needs to be regularly cleaned. We don’t have the personnel to do that at the moment.”
Updating the park was a two-year project spearheaded by Leadership Wilson. The original equipment was more than 30 years old and had become a safety concern for the community, and its total replacement cost was $105,000.
“At the beginning of February, we met our goal,” Kaileigh Dunn, a member of the Leadership Wilson class that worked on the project, said. “We got an anonymous donation at the end, which I believe was about $8,000, that pushed us over our goal mark.”
With that donation, Leadership Wilson was able to make its February deadline and help Watertown secure $20,000 in grant funding from the Tennessee Department of Health. The park was originally scheduled to reopen in May, but COVID-19 interrupted the process.
“They’ve been delaying putting the mulch down because of COVID,” Dunn said. “They don’t want to basically tease the kids by having it there but not letting them play on it. I know there are a lot of people in the community who’ve been asking about it, and people are anxious for it to open.”
According to Jennings, the park will remain closed for now as the city continues to monitor the virus’ spread.
“I think it’s going pretty well at Watertown,” he said. “I know we’ve had some cases, but as far as we can tell they’ve been fairly isolated. We don’t know of any areas in the city that have a concentration of cases.”
Watertown’s vision for the park once it opens is to see it become a hub for local sports leagues and exercise. Approximately 400 children are involved in the park’s sports programs each year, and it also sees regular traffic from DeKalb and Smith counties.