Before a municipality can reopen its playgrounds, it must receive approval from the St. Louis County Department of Public Health. It also must make users aware of how often the areas are sanitized, so they can assess their own risk, explained Joe Vujnich, Wildwood’s director of planning and parks.
The city’s four main playgrounds have been closed since March 16, due to concern over COVID-19.
However, nearby playgrounds, such as those in Ballwin, have opened with the city of residence providing sanitation of the facilities on a regular basis. Special cleaners and sunlight as well as signs noting the frequency of cleaning and the risk of using the equipment also have been employed.
According to Vujnich, the Wildwood Parks Department contacted two companies that provide services to sanitize and disinfect the playgrounds on a weekly basis. One company quoted $3,040 per month and the other $1,250 per month. It’s money that some on the council were reluctant to spend.
Council member Don Bartoni (Ward 2) said he hadn’t received any phone calls about reopening the playgrounds and he doesn’t support it.
“To spend money for 30 minutes a week is just a waste of money,” Bartoni said. “If we open the parks … the perception is that it’s going to be OK.”
On the other end of the spectrum, council member Teresa Clark (Ward 1) thought it was a good idea to open the playgrounds.
“There are a lot of kids that still want to play together, so they’re getting together inside,” Clark said. “I see this as a way to get them outside and further apart.”
Other options were mentioned, from only opening the Community Park playground and installing sanitizing stations and signs warning of the potential risk to hiring someone to monitor safety protocols.
Several motions were made, but none was approved. The council did agree to bring the issue up at the next council meeting. So for now, the playgrounds will remain closed.
After the meeting, Mayor Jim Bowlin commented, “Our residents are capable of making their own decisions, and I look forward to the day when we move forward with opening the playground equipment for our children.”
Bowlin added that he agreed that “we shouldn’t spend our taxpayers’ dollars on measures that won’t adequately protect them.”