Some recreation programs set to cautiously resume


With the risks involved with COVID-19 along with the closure of schools and businesses, area community education and city recreational activities were put on ice. Now plans are in the works to reopen some programs.

As far as athletic offerings and activities, Pine River-Backus and Pequot Lakes schools have opted to skip the summer seasons based on feasibility.

“We are not going to be doing anything this year, just because of all the restrictions with sharing of equipment and whatnot," said Andrea Nelson, Pequot Lakes Community Education coordinator. “It's just not feasible to offer a quality program or anything like that at this point.”

“I think a lot of the communities regionally here in Crosby-Ironton, Pequot, Pine River and Walker, are all not offering youth sports,” said Troy Gregory, Pine River-Backus Community Education director. “We came to that decision because while (the state is) somewhat allowing it - like modified - there's a lot of restrictions that make it difficult to organize. Only one person can handle a ball. Player hits a ball across the net, they have to walk around and get their ball. So we we just thought it would be simpler at this point to not offer anything for the summer.”

The impact is significant.


“We usually have 350 kids participating in the summer ball program,” Nelson said. “So that's a big loss. Safety Town is another big one that we do. It's about 100 kids that we haven't been able to do that for, and then just a lot of our regular high school sports camps that we run.”

Some planning is in the works for possible youth athletics camps in both districts.

“We may revisit that in July, with some potential camps depending on what continues to go on,” Gregory said.

In other communities, organizers are also looking ahead to July and the restrictions they hope will be eased by then.

“If gathering restrictions are opened up, we will begin our baseball season for T-ball and Mustang and Colt League baseball after July 4," said Matthew Hill, Nisswa Parks and Recreation director. "We're hoping to have a six to seven week season of baseball with some competitive games with Crosslake after the Fourth of July, as long as the gathering restrictions are lifted, and we will also open Safety Town for our little kids and tennis lessons as well."

Of course, Nisswa needs to have teams to compete against, and Crosslake is cautiously planning to join Nisswa, though those plans are very tentative.

“Under the 'Stay Safe Minnesota,' we're looking at that now,” said TJ Graumann, Crosslake director of Parks, Recreation and Library. “We're looking at reopening up our baseball program after the July 4 weekend and kind of following suit with all of our other programs, like youth tennis lessons, and so on and so forth.”

Of course, the schools and cities handle more than just athletic activities, and there are plans to begin resuming community education and similar activities soon as well.


“Currently, with the gathering restrictions that are in place, we don't have any programs available that are open,” Hill said. “We do have an art class that is open that is going to be done remotely if the gathering restrictions are not lifted in June.”

In Crosslake, outdoor community facilities are open, including walking trails and the community garden, though all those facilities have signs advising those who use them to do so at their own risk and requesting use of social distancing guidelines. Furthermore, they have removed the shared tools from the community gardens.

The Pine River-Backus community garden still has tools, but Gregory said they are requiring gardeners to wear gloves to use them.

There are some other community education opportunities in both school districts.

“We can run some virtual activities in classrooms,” Gregory said. “So what I've been doing is I've been trying to get some instructors to put out videos and I wanted to do this just for free for people, but I had a difficult time getting people to do that. So we're going to do some outdoor kayaking classes with limited sizes, and we're going to do dog training class outdoors with limited people and dogs.”

“We are going to be offering some youth enrichment camps,” Nelson said. “Hopefully, some small sports camp starting in July. That is our goal is to start July 6, with opening things. We've got a drone programming camp for kids, and a magic camp and hiking club.”

Of course, for students of a certain age there is likely some worry about driver's education classes. Area schools are preparing to offer this right of passage with some additional precautions.

“So we're running our driver's ed classroom virtually right now,” Gregory said. “We're using Schoology like we did for the distance learning pieces, but they have to be there to be accessible to them. So it has to be live instruction. So we are able to do the classroom and we're running behind the wheel training. And with that students have to wear gloves and a mask and we clean out the entire vehicle interior between each student.”


Again, most activities are tentative at this point. Anyone hoping to participate in any community classes or sports should keep in contact with their local community education office or city recreation office.

“We do have a pretty busy summer still planned, but they are all tentative right now based on restrictions, personal distancing, gathering restrictions, things like that,” Hill said.

Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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