City parks staff still planning despite uncertainty

Daily Times Leader

Normally at this point in the year, West Point parks would be buzzing with families and the sounds of a baseball hitting a glove or a bat would be echoing throughout.

For now, though, the coronavirus pandemic has halted all activities. There will be a monthly board meeting in West Point on Wednesday for some further instruction on where things stand, but the parks have been closed this spring and are closed until further notice.

That hasn’t stopped the crew at the city’s Parks and Recreation Department from gearing up for the possibility of sports this summer.

Interim Parks Director Jared McDaniel has taken over at the most trying time that the parks have seen in some time after James Crowley resigned last month.

McDaniel says that his crew has been preparing for the sports as if they never left. Lawn maintenance has been the main course of action during this time, but the fields are ready to go at a moment’s notice.
“We’re in uncharted territory and public safety is our main concern. We’re just trying to be ready just in case,” McDaniel said. “I’m just proud of our guys for all of the hard work they’ve put in so far. They’ve been up there every day working on the fields without fail and making sure that everything is in great shape.”

The good news for the department is cost has been minimal so far. There hasn’t been a team draft for the recreational leagues to this point, which means that there hasn’t been any money spent on uniforms or equipment while other parks had already purchased those before the pandemic.

There are three full time workers at the department, with a part time worker also employed but no one on staff has been in danger of losing their position and the department itself is doing just fine for now.

“We’ve been able to get everything done efficiently especially now with the weather cooperating,” McDaniel said. “The umpires have been affected with no games but so far everyone has been able to keep their job and we don’t anticipate there being any issues any time soon.”

Had things been working under normal operations, there would be baseball, tee ball and softball underway in West Point. That would run through Memorial Day and then they’d go to adult softball. That carries all the way into August before soccer picks up and the hope is that everything will resume shortly.

Until then, all McDaniel and his crew can do is be prepared. As a dad, it’s been a disappointing time for him not being able to watch his son play baseball but he’s also had a chance to work with his son at home which has been a blessing for him.

“Personally, it’s been very strange. This is usually my busiest time of the year,” McDaniel said. “My son was getting ready for his last summer of coach pitch so he’s missing out on that. That’s been pretty hard from a personal note and I’m sure there’s hundreds of other kids that feel the same way. To be missing out on something they enjoy hasn’t been fun. I have seen kids in their front yard practicing with their parents practicing and learning the game and I think that’s the silver lining in it all.”