BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Youth sports, churches, gyms, and other business operations impacted by COVID-19 are getting some extra support Friday from the City of Bakersfield, through a new permit now available that will allow for modified operations to take place in a city maintained park.
City officials said Friday that nine different parks across the city will now be available for use through a new special use permit process that's free right now during COVID-19. The nine different parks include Yokuts Park, Beech Park, Patriots Park, The Park at Riverwalk, Siemon Park, Grissom Park, Wayside Park, Greystone Park, and Stiern Park.
However, The City of Bakersfield's Recreation & Parks Department Director, Dianne Hoover said those interested will have to apply online.
“There's no specific deadline. This was created similar to what the city did with restaurants downtown or restaurants being able to expand into sidewalks and parking areas, which they would not normally do. So during COVID-19, we are offering this permit for free,” Hoover said.
Hoover said so far three sports associations and one church have applied for the new special use permit and are under review.
“So they would have to show us their insurance, that they are insured and we have specific parks that they can use because we wanted parks with one that had a parking lot where they could use off-street parking and two had a restroom as well,” Hoover said.
Those who apply will have to provide information about how they are following COVID-19 guidelines issued by the state that apply to their industry, including social distancing measures, mask-wearing, and more.
However, Hoover said youth sports programs do have an extra hurdle or two to jump through.
“They would have to stay in the same group, they would have to show us that they are following the state protocols for youth sports and currently no adult sports are able to compete at this time.”
Former Cal State Bakersfield baseball coach, baseball training facility owner, and professional scout team coach, Bill Gentry, said his players wear masks, have their temperature checks, and sanitization and extensive precautions are being used to protect players and their families.
However, he said the strain has been real on players mentally, physically, and emotionally and this new permit is a win for his team.
"Well it’s a start, and it's getting the kids back on the field and I really like to see it for the schools. All these high school coaches the college programs.. their struggling with this,” Gentry said.
Gentry and his team have had 31 games canceled because of the COVID-19 shut down of fields and parks. He said they managed to play three games but they had to be out of state and finding a place to play in-state hasn’t been an easy task.
“Some of the restrictions they had is you can’t have more than 16 people including coaches on the field, you can’t have any visitors in the stands no fans, no outside scouting, no catcher,” Gentry said.
Coach Gentry said he just hopes they can at least get the players back in a park or field to just provide a sense of normalcy even though they can’t compete.