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A plea to open city playgrounds

Mike Genet

Preston Smith wishes fellow Blue Springs residents didn’t have to wait another month to get full use of their parks again.

He also says Mayor Carson Ross should press more to give residents that ability.

Smith urged the city to reconsider keeping playgrounds closed through June, saying national health officials’ assertions about COVID-19 show it’s a low-risk venture. He also asked the mayor during Monday’s City Council meeting if he talked with county officials about those specific guidelines during their conference calls.

The city’s phased reopening guidelines that follow those of the county allow for ball fields and courts to be used again, though not for league play, But the guidelines keep playgrounds around the city and the splash pad at Burrus Old Mill Park closed through June.

“We need to break with Jackson County; I think this is a case where they’ve called it wrong,” Smith said before Monday’s meeting. “We’ve gone along too far on too many things with Jackson County.”

Ross encouraged Smith to take action himself and contact the county Health Department and county officials. Later, Ross reiterated that the consensus recommendations from mayors around the county are simply part of the county’s decision making, though he did not specify exactly what the mayors recommended about parks.

Smith said health officials and researchers have found that COVID-19 transmission is less likely from surfaces and objects, especially after some exposure to sunlight, people 25-younger account for 4 percent of confirmed cases in Missouri and children nationwide account for an even smaller fraction, 1.7 percent. He cited researchers at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Mayo Clinic, the state health department and the federal Department of Homeland Security.

“My point is, of all things to close in Jackson County, playgrounds have to be among the very reasonable ones to not close,” Smith said. “You have the least-infected population, low transmission and with low susceptibility.”

“With the heat now, it’s a great time to use the playgrounds that we’ve all paid for.”

Ross said mayors in Eastern Jackson County have weekly conference calls with county officials, but while he believes the mayors have a pulse on the thoughts of their cities’ citizens, their recommendations are just one aspect. County Executive Frank White Jr. also must weigh recommendations from the Legislature and the county health director, he said. Furthermore, Ross said, the mayors have discussions with their parks directors, who have their own discussions with other park leaders and know what they can handle during the pandemic.

Smith, admittedly not impressed with Ross’ response during Monday’s meeting, said it’s the first time he’s asked a city official for anything in 30 years living in Blue Springs.

“I don’t have kids, so I wouldn’t be using them anyway,” Smith said of the playgrounds, “but I think it’s unfair.”