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Lower Swatara parks might open this week, with regular cleanings by township staff

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Playground equipment in Lower Swatara Township may reopen this week with staff sanitizing the equipment once a day.

The playground equipment in township parks have been roped off since the beginning of April. With Dauphin County moving to the green phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s reopening of the state from the coronavirus Friday, Township Manager Betsy McBride asked the commissioners whether they wanted to reopen the parks during their meeting June 17.

Most of the commissioners expressed interest in reopening the parks.

“I think it’s going be an additional cost to this township, obviously, to sanitize everything every day, but I think the public has been wanting to use these parks for a while. The public is paying taxes for the parks. I think we need to reopen them up,” said Vice President Todd Truntz.

President Jon Wilt was the only one who voiced hesitations, noting that the schools didn’t know what they were doing come August or September and asking whether neighboring municipalities were also loosening their restrictions.

“It might not be a bad idea, like Betsy said, maybe delay it, actually opening up the parks another month because we’re in uncharted territories here,” Wilt said.

McBride said some neighboring municipalities have already reopened their equipment. Middletown unwrapped its equipment Friday.

Following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, staff should once a day to sanitize any portable bathrooms, playground equipment and used pavilions, McBride said.

Public works staff would also have to come in on weekends to sanitize. The township would post signs, saying that the equipment has been sanitized once a day.

CDC doesn’t recommend sanitizing the parks and fields themselves, McBride said. 

Solicitor Peter Henninger said pavilion rentals would be limited to 25 people. Any sports groups who would want to use the fields are limited to practices and 25 players, Henninger said. 

“You have to follow those guidelines so as to not jeopardize your insurance coverage,” Henninger said.

One group who has expressed interest in using Lower Swatara’s parks is the Middletown Area Recreation Alliance, which is interested in setting up pickleball courts on the tennis courts in Memorial Park. 

Recreation Programs Supervisor Will Foster said the courts would be used by a league and needed for a couple of hours several nights during the week. He said he’s working with other park and recreation departments to create a Central Pennsylvania league.

“This is still a work in progress, but I don’t want to plan on using these courts if I’m not allowed to,” Foster said.

Most tennis players use the courts at Middletown Area High School, Foster said. He’s estimating 20 people or less on the courts at a time.