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Firestone poised for big return

COLUMBIANA — The city park board made big decisions last week, including opening the pool in mid-June and postponing the Fourth of July celebration to a later date.

However, with almost 30 people attending the meeting, many other topics were discussed, such as the opening of sports facilities, pavilions and summer concerts at Firestone Park.

With the COVID-19 guidelines changing daily, park board president Ron Detwiler and city manager Lance Willard said that every decision that the board makes from here on out will follow the guidelines set out by Gov. Mike DeWine, local and state health departments and the CDC.

President Rob Hall and minor league director Jared Work of the Columbiana Youth Baseball Association told the board that they intend to open up the fields this week. As they draw up their plans to execute social distancing during the summer season, they stressed that they will follow the local and state guidelines strictly.

“If we are given the ability to use the fields, we have gone over the guidelines and are able to adhere to the guidelines and any other local regulations,” Hall said. “After talking with other communities, we’ve all agreed to follow the Ohio guidelines and any local guidelines as well.”

While constructing a waiver regarding the rules and guidelines for parents to sign, Hall and Work have also thought of ways to create appropriate distances between players, including not using the dugouts, which are a little over 12 feet long.

The players will be sitting with their parents while waiting to bat, and the only two players in the dugout at a time will be the on-deck batter and the batter in-the-hole. All coaches will also be required to wear a mask. If the parents do not comply with the waiver, Hall and Work said the games may not be played.

Ryan Wolf, head coach of the high school baseball team, said that the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) and the county health department have cleared them to open up this week. Since the team missed out on this high school season, Wolf would like to use the opportunity to hold a summer season.

“I am looking for the park field to be allowed to be used,” Wolf said. “We’re still working closely with the school and are not completely ready to open up just yet, but if it is able to go forward, we’d like to be able to use it.”

Detwiler reminded Wolf that the high school team does have first priority for the field at the park.

In other business, the park board decided to keep the pavilions closed through the end of May and until further guidance since the governor has not changed the rule of 10 or fewer people gathering at a time.

As park superintendent Terry Schafer said that canceling reservations that were made a year ago has been difficult, Willard acknowledged that while there is staff enforcing the rules at the pool, the pavilions aren’t monitored.

“Pavilions aren’t staffed during rentals,” Willard said. “We can open them and clean them between rentals, but that’s it.”

Summer concerts in the park were also postponed through June and will be re-evaluated at that time. Park board member Greg Gustafson said it is difficult to continue to put off the decision since the performers need to know when they are playing in advance. But as the concerts would likely generate crowds of more than 10 people, the board decided to postpone the events through June. As they have done with other decisions, the board decided not to completely cancel the concerts for the rest of the year.

The board also told high school head football coach Bob Spaite that they will be in constant communication with him to let him know when the weight room will be opened up. Needing approval to open up from the OHSAA, school and the park board, Spaite just wants to make sure everyone is on the same page.

The park board will meet again on June 1 to re-evaluate any new guidelines set in place by the governor or the CDC.

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