Evanston hosts recreational activities amid pandemic


Courtesy: City of Evanston

Fleetwood Jourdain Community Center. The city has hosted various activities here throughout the pandemic, such as fall camps for students.

Sam Heller, Assistant City Editor

Evanston’s Parks and Recreation Department has had to adapt its recreational sports programs to meet safety guidelines this fall — an increasingly difficult task as the weather gets colder.

In an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the state of Illinois has restricted recreational sports. Currently, only sports labeled low-risk, such as tennis and softball, can partake in intraconference games. High-risk sports like basketball and hockey are only allowed to be played through no-contact practices.

The city has been working to provide residents with the best and safest way to abide by these guidelines, said Raymond Doerner, the city’s recreational manager. So far, Evanston has focused on hosting more outdoor activities, whether that means creating new outdoor COVID-19-safe activities, or moving indoor programs outside.

Doerner said residents have responded well to the changes, with many looking for de-stressing activities.

“Our community recognizes the needs and desires to have recreation, to have things for them and their families and their kids to do,” he said. “There’s definitely a high level of interest and enthusiasm for the things we are able to offer.”

Even with the city’s adult women’s softball league canceled, those who still want to play have created socially-distanced and safe alternatives. Members of the adult league arranged pick-up games, where players were required to wear masks, said Biz Lindsay-Ryan, a coach in the adult league and the children’s house league.

“Everybody was so grateful for this outlet,” Lindsay-Ryan said. “We were able to play while everybody really respected each other’s boundaries.”

Even though the children’s travel softball league generally takes place in the spring, parents and coaches were able to throw together a last-minute league, she said.

But as the weather gets colder and activities move inside, the city has to learn to make the indoor activities as safe as the ones they have been able to host outdoors, Doerner said.

Many popular indoor sports, such as basketball and hockey, are high-contact. As a result, the city cannot host leagues. However, they have been able to host basketball and hockey drill camps, Ann Marie Heiser, recreation manager of the Robert Crown Community Center, said.

The city has been able to lead fall camps at various centers throughout the city. Kenneth Cherry, recreation manager of the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, said the full-day camps provide young children with a place to complete their remote learning while also engaging in recreational activities, all under adult supervision.

Cherry said the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center hosts around 40 children a day in these camps, and makes sure they wear their masks at all times and are socially distanced.

In the beginning, Cherry said parents were cautious of the program. During the first week, many parents would stop by in the middle of the day to ensure the program was following safety precautions.

But parent response to the new program has been positive.

“They were coming in to make sure that we don’t just follow protocol when they’re here,” Cherry said. “But we have gotten outstanding reviews from parents.”

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