BILLINGS — Billings Parks and Recreation is loosening restrictions and increasing capacity in the city parks as Montana moved into phase two of Gov. Steve Bullock's plan to reopen the state took effect Monday.
Playgrounds and sports courts around the city are now open. Summer camps also started Monday at 75 percent capacity.
“We’re still working hard to provide some distancing and making sure we’re keeping surfaces clean, those types of things. So we’re at a 75 percent capacity with our camps. Then we’re preparing to open our pools June 3," said Kory Thomson, Billings Parks and Recreation superintendent.
People can take a dip in the Rose and South Park pools starting Wednesday, but they'll have to wait until June 8 to take the kids to the wading pools at Pioneer and Hawthorne parks.
Thomson said all the Billings pools will operate at 75 percent capacity and staff will implement social distancing among patrons to the best of their ability.
“Any time there’s a line forming either at the front desk or the concession window, diving boards or water slides, they’ll see markings for six feet of separation. Our staff will do the best they can to limit close contact of folks. But again, people from the same household can sit together," Thomson said.
People should expect some changes this summer at Rose Park pool. Thomson said the picnic tables have been appropriately spaced apart and lifeguards will sanitize them as frequently as they can. The lockers at the pool will be closed to the public.
People should also bring lawn chairs, because the park's beach chairs won't be available. Thomson said it would be difficult to track the sanitation of hundreds of chairs with sometimes 900 people moving through the pool on a hot day.
People will have to wait longer for the four Billings spray grounds to open. Thomson said the spray grounds will have to wait until phase three.
"The recommendations that we've gotten to this point from the Yellowstone County Health Department is that the spray grounds would be a phase three opening," Thomson said.
Thomson said the opening of the spray grounds are delayed because they aren't staffed by lifeguards and could attract large crowds.
The summer camp and lesson opportunities the Parks Department provides are getting into full swing, albeit at 75 percent capacity. Thomson said many of the first round of classes have already been filled. But there are multiple sessions as the summer goes on if people want to sign up.
To browse summer camp offerings and learn more about the Billings parks, visit billingsparks.org or call 406-657-8371.
Thomson said if Bullock moves the state into phase three, the classes and camps could move back to 100 percent capacity.
More amenities became open as the state ushered in phase two. The Parks and Recreation office is back open to the public from 8-5 p.m., Monday-Friday. Picnic table and shelter rentals are now open again for reservations.