Morehead City cancels summer camps

Campers pose for a photo in downtown Morehead City during a previous year’s summer day camp program, sponsored by the Morehead City Parks and Recreation Department. The city decided to cancel the program this year due to COVID-19. (Contributed photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — Following suit with other municipalities throughout the state, including some others in Carteret County, Morehead City is canceling its summer camp program this year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Parks and Recreation Director Jerry Riggs gave the Morehead City Council an update Tuesday on the latest guidance from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on operating summer camps amidst the outbreak. The parks department sponsors an eight-week summer day camp program to children ages 5-12.

Mr. Riggs said NCDHHS frequently updates its guidance on operating summer camps in light of new information about COVID-19. Though the department says summer camps will be permitted this year, camps must follow an extensive set guidelines to prevent exposure to the virus by campers and staff.

“Our staff has gone through this and the challenges are really, really challenging because of all the guidelines we’d have to (follow),” Mr. Riggs said.

One sticking point for Mr. Riggs was a rule barring all-camp assemblies and field trips, which are a major component of Morehead City’s summer camp program. Campers would also have to practice social distancing, staying 6 feet apart from each other to the extent possible.

Mr. Riggs said with 100 campers signed up for the program, social distancing would be difficult to enforce.

“I don’t know if you’ve been around any kids lately, but if you have two kids together, it’s impossible to keep them 6 feet apart,” he said.

Mr. Riggs said he and other parks directors throughout the state hold frequent conference calls to discuss the latest guidance, and many directors have already decided to cancel their summer camp programs. Emerald Isle commissioners Tuesday agreed to cancel its summer camp, and the county recreation department is considering the same.

Though the council did not formally vote to cancel summer camp, they agreed with Mr. Riggs’ assessment and directed him to move forward with notifying parents so the parks and recreation department can begin issuing refunds.

To make up for the lack of a traditional summer camp this year, Mr. Riggs said the department is considering hosting some day camps on a smaller scale later in the summer.    

“What we’d like to do is maybe look at this in July and maybe start offering some additional one-day theme camps as phase one, phase two (of the state’s reopening plan) come through,” he said. “With the restrictions, hopefully we could do it correctly, properly and meet the guidelines.

“We don’t want to close the door, it’s just that right now it’s impossible to meet all these guidelines,” Mr. Riggs concluded.

The Morehead City Police Department also hosts a summer camp program that will be canceled, as well.   

Additionally, Mr. Riggs gave the council an update on the expected reopening of playgrounds. He said the earliest they can open, per Gov. Roy Cooper’s phased reopening plan, is Friday, May 22. However, like the summer camps, opening comes with strict protocol the parks department would have to follow for cleaning and sanitizing playground equipment.

“We were hoping it’d be a little bit easier but it doesn’t appear that way,” he said, “it’s going to be very challenging.”

 

Contact Elise Clouser at elise@thenewstimes.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

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