The three parks join Colonial Park and the city’s Recreation Center with green space reopened following a span of weeks where public gathering places were closed down due to COVID-19 restrictions. On May 15, West University Place plans to reopen green space at the remaining parks: Judson Park, Wier Park, Whitt Johnson Park, and Huffington Park, according to the city’s announcement.
Construction fencing is required around playground equipment at Judson Park, Whitt Johnson Park, and Wier Park to discourage kids from using the equipment. Installation of the fencing at the three parks would cost the city about $1,500 total, said Aaron Taylor, fire chief and emergency management coordinator, during the May 11 city council meeting.
The city’s announcement comes after a May 11 city council meeting in which members recommended green spaces at the parks be reopened, following an initial proposal by Mayor Bob Higley to reopen the parks, sans pools and playgrounds.
“I’d like to propose opening the green space as quickly as possible with a shield, if you will—fencing—around the kid-friendly park equipment, which might act as a transmitter,” Higley said. “That way, yes, the parks are open, and yes, we are still protecting children.”
The city is also looking at closing off park benches and tables, as well as installing fencing around equipment at the other parks, if needed.
Parks are able to be reopened, though restrictions outlined in Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s May 1 amended executive order banned reopening of playgrounds and other equipment that can serve to house the SARS-CoV-2 virus, until May 21.
Meanwhile, the city of West U plans to reopen city buildings on June 1, should no additional direction be given from the state of Texas or Harris County, Taylor said. City employees would also return to a normal schedule, though it should be noted that city services have been under normal operations, despite city staff performing remote work, city manager Dave Beach pointed out during the meeting.
“There isn’t a lack of service being provided, it’s just the smiling face that goes with it,” he said.
Council member John Barnes posed the question of whether West U would encourage visitors to wear masks once city hall and the public works building reopen.
“That’s a discussion we’ve had in our EOC (emergency operations center) meetings, and the answer would be yes, we would highly encourage masks,” Taylor said.
As of May 13, West University Place has 15 confirmed cases and zero deaths associated with COVID-19, according to Harris County data, out of a combined total of 8,416 confirmed cases in the county, along with 3,213 recoveries.