WATSONVILLE—The City of Watsonville celebrated two reopenings Friday, hosting a socially-distanced ribbon-cutting ceremony for the rebuilt Muzzio Park playground and removing some Covid-19 restrictions from its 26 parks.
A handful of community members joined City staff and Watsonville City Councilman Felipe Hernandez at Muzzio Park on Rodriguez Street to formally open the new towering playground.
In all, it cost $140,000 to build the structure. That cost included the demolition of the remaining parts of the former playground that last year was flattened in what Watsonville Police Department has deemed an arson.
The City had help in building the playground. It received a $40,000 grant from the play structure company GameTime and a $4,000 donation from Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance. The Friends of Watsonville Parks and Recreation also contributed about $1,000 to the rebuild from a GoFundMe campaign.
“We want to send a big shout out and thank you to all of our City staff and community members who helped to contribute to this project,” Parks and Community Services Department Director Nick Calubaquib said in a video posted on the City’s social media accounts. “[We] look forward to seeing this playground create extraordinary experiences and enhance the quality of life for all of our Watsonville residents.”
Several young people could be seen playing on the playground in that video, a sight that will be more common as parks and playgrounds citywide reopened on the same day.
Parks across the county were closed earlier this year to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
People are required to follow guidance from the California Department of Public Health while using the playgrounds, Calubaquib said. That includes practicing social distancing and wearing face coverings. The City is also encouraging people to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer regularly, especially after playing with or on shared equipment and after using the restroom. Residents are also asked to stay home if they are not feeling well or showing Covid-19 symptoms.
Playground equipment will not be sanitized and access to public restrooms will be limited.
Calubaquib said the City followed suit with the County’s decision to reopen its parks on the same date—as did all other Santa Cruz County cities.
That decision, however, can change if issues arise or if local Covid-19 cases jump over the next few weeks, Calubaquib said. He said he does not expect another mass closure, but the City could make small adjustments to its parks if residents do not respect the rules.
For example, City staff in June removed the hoops on the basketball court at Callaghan Park because people were playing pick-up games with other people from outside of their household, a violation of state guidelines, Calubaquib said.
Those hoops have since returned to their backboards.
“Never in my career did I ever think I’d have to tell people to get off our fields, not play basketball and not touch our playgrounds, but it’s kind of just the reality of things right now,” Calubaquib said. “It’s a constantly moving piece that we have to be flexible with and do our part to help combat this pandemic the best we can.”