Michelle Sand leads an outdoor fitness class during which participants were asked to keep socially distant from one another. The class size was limited, but now that outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people are allowed, the Parks and Recreation Department hopes to offer more class options until the Senior Activity Center can reopen.

Michelle Sand leads an outdoor fitness class during which participants were asked to keep socially distant from one another. The class size was limited, but now that outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people are allowed, the Parks and Recreation Department hopes to offer more class options until the Senior Activity Center can reopen.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Summer fun looks different in 2020 in St. Clair Shores

Parks and Recreation offers alternatives, opens facilities

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published June 5, 2020


ST. CLAIR SHORES — Summertime traditions will be different in 2020, but the St. Clair Shores Parks and Recreation director says that doesn’t mean there still aren’t opportunities to have fun.

“It’s a great opportunity to take advantage of some other things in our parks,” said Henry Bowman, the director of parks and recreation. “Our skatepark is open, our tennis courts are open, our pickleball courts are open. We have a disc golf course at Brys Park, and that is open.”

He said it’s also a great time to teach kids how to fish, either at the Nine Mile pier, the Blossom Heath fishing pier, or at Veterans Memorial Park or the Lac Ste. Claire harbor with a park pass.

As of June 1, when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer rescinded her Safer At Home Executive Order and declared that Michigan was moving into Phase 4 of the state’s reopening, the city was also able to open its playgrounds and begin making plans to open its pool and splash pad.

“We are working on hiring lifeguards,” Bowman said June 3. “We were already in the process because we were thinking (progressively).”

He said that St. Clair Shores is working hard to be able to open the pool to swimmers by July 1, at the latest. The splash pad at Veterans Memorial Park may open even sooner, he said, depending how quickly the city can get the Macomb County Health Department out to perform its annual inspections.

The pool will reopen at a capacity of 50% or less, he said. No decision had been made as of June 3 whether to offer pool passes for sale, or about swim lessons and swim team practices.

Although the governor also declared that summer day camps are allowed to operate in Phase 4, Bowman said it’s not that easy to change tactics. The city made the decision in April to cancel its Summer Playground Program and Special Needs Program for the summer due to COVID-19, in order to give parents as much time as possible to find alternative arrangements for their children’s care.

Bowman said that, yes, while camps are now allowed, “nobody’s really taken into account hiring people and a lot of these people, they’re not sitting around waiting for us to call them.”

“What we’re doing right now is reaching out to our camp counselors that have worked for us before and seeing who is available to come to work” in an effort to potentially offer a reduced camp session.

The Parks and Recreation Department is offering a Virtual Day Camp, which the department had been working to develop since it had to cancel in-person camp.

Campers will get a box with some supplies and a camp T-shirt, along with daily ideas and projects to do, plus some virtual classes. Activities may include nature walks, balloon splatter painting, zumba or yoga, a virtual field trip, creating a solar oven and participating in a virtual escape room.

The goal, Bowman said, is to “give them something to do each day” to help caregivers. He said they are trying to keep the price low while covering their costs for the supplies. Those interested in signing up can call the Parks and Recreation Department at (586) 445-5350 or go to the Civic Arena, 20000 Stephens St. Park passes are also available at the Civic Arena.

Councilwoman Candice Rusie said June 1 that she felt frustrated by the fact that the city was led to believe that facilities would remain closed and activities prohibited throughout the summer.

“Suddenly the governor issues some words (and) camps are fine. When we were under the assumption that, no, you can’t have these things. I don’t know how we’re supposed to get these things up and going,” she said.

You don’t need a building

for senior activities

The Senior Activities Center remains closed to the public, but that doesn’t mean the department is just resting on its laurels.

An outdoor exercise program was offered for up to nine members of the center to be held at Blossom Heath Park June 4, where the city was taking precautions to keep participants safe.

“When the seniors come in, we’re going to ask them the same questions that we would ask employees,” about how they are feeling and whether they have any symptoms of coronavirus, Bowman said. Participants will also have their temperature taken and be kept apart for social distancing.

“We’re putting little cones out there (to) have 10 feet apart between each person,” he said. “We want to be very careful with our seniors. That’s why we’re doing extra testing and we want to make sure we’re asking the questions.”

New Senior Center Coordinator Matthew Hubinsky said that they are hoping to be able offer more outdoor exercise opportunities like Silver Sneakers, yoga, tai chi and more. Although the first class was limited to nine participants, the June 1 announcement that groups of up to 100 can gather outdoors with proper social distancing means that the center won’t have to keep the classes quite as small in the future.

Hubinsky encouraged members of the Senior Center to keep watch on www.facebook.com/stclairshoressenior because he and the staff were going to be sharing announcements about more classes and other resources the seniors can take advantage of on that page.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have a date for reopening (the center),” he said. “We are doing a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure it’s a safe return for the members and our staff.”

Fireworks canceled,

but farmers market is not

The city will host its first farmers market of the season 8 a.m.-2 p.m. June 28 at Blossom Heath Park, offering produce and other food items without the frills, Bowman said.

“We’re going to try and spread our vendors out to give them enough space,” he said, explaining that they hope to be able to add other items and offerings to future markets.

The market is held on the fourth Sunday of the month.

But the St. Clair Shores First State Bank Fireworks Extravaganza was canceled due to the size of the anticipated crowd, which would exceed the governor’s limit of 100 people allowed to gather outdoors. The typical entertainment and food trucks associated with the event, which was scheduled for June 26, were also canceled.

In a statement from the city, Mayor Kip Walby said that, after considering the logistics for such a large and popular event, “it was clear the right thing to do was to cancel the fireworks for 2020. We are looking forward to seeing the display return even bigger and better in 2021.”

Golf is a go

Bowman said that the St. Clair Shores Golf Club, 22185 Masonic Blvd., is open and tee times can be reserved at scsgolf.org or by calling (586) 294-2000.

“We’ve been working hard to make sure we’re following all the regulations that we’ve been given by the governor,” he said, explaining that they are working to have plastic dividers installed in golf carts so that two golfers can ride in a cart at a time.

“We’re expecting soon that we can shorten up our times and get more people out on the course. Golfers, keep in mind: you have to keep your social distancing,” he added.

He said he’s happy that more recreation opportunities are now allowed as Michigan emerges from the pandemic shutdown.

“Everybody’s been working so hard to beat this, and you know what? It’s reward time,” he said.

Follow facebook.com/st.clairshoresparksandrecreation or visit scsmi.net/303/Parks-Recreation for up-to-date information on recreation programs and facilities.