County parks open; leagues split on restarting

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  • The ballparks are open, but the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners has decided to let individual leagues decide when and if they resume. FILE PHOTO
    The ballparks are open, but the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners has decided to let individual leagues decide when and if they resume. FILE PHOTO
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Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order on May 22 to allow for the return of organized youth sports in Florida, and on May 28, Nassau County management met with representatives from organizations via conference call to discuss the reintroduction of the use of sports fields.

County Manager Mike Mullin advised the Nassau County Recreation Commission of the guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and inquired what organizations planned to do. A list is being compiled of the organizations that plan to resume play and those that are not.

The park fields are open, and it is up to the presidents and volunteers of each organization to decide if they will resume activities, according to Mullin. Several organizations would like to restart their programs, but some have no plans to do so.

“Some of you may not want to reopen,” Mullin said. “But, if you do, I need from you what you would like the county to provide.

“We don’t have the manpower to enforce rules. That’s just not possible. If you’re looking for hand sanitizer, masks. We can determine if that’s doable or not.”

Emergency Management Director Greg Foster advised those planning to restart youth sports to take the appropriate precautions to keep all involved safe given the threat of the novel coronavirus.

“Whether you follow the guidelines or not will be up to each league,” Mullin said.

“I want to get back out there too, but I want to be cautious about it,” Martinez said. “There are some parents who are uncomfortable, and I totally understand that. We’re sympathetic to that.

“If we can do it systematically and ask the county to provide us with assistance if they can. Or if they can’t, we just have to make the decision as a group with our parents, our board.”

Attendees expressed several concerns during the meeting, including liability if someone contracts the disease and insurance not covering COVID-19, not having the manpower in volunteers to enforce the guidelines and loss of funds from canceled spring seasons.

“I’m 99 percent sure insurance policies won’t cover this. It’s an act of God,” said LeAnne Martinez, president of the Callahan Soccer Club.

Mullin was asked if there was money available from the federal government to assist the local sports organizations. Mullin said the CARES Act that passed could possibly be distributed to the local government and said he would look into it.

“We still don’t know the full extent of COVID-19 and what the effects are,” Mullin said. “That’s why professional sports are not open. For that reason.

“All the parks are open. You can do organized sports. It’s up to you to do that. I think it should be up to the league, and the board supports that.

“You are all extremely reasonable. You understand what you are faced with. Whether you open or not, it’s up to you.”