City of Canby flip-flops on playground closures

Clackamas County

Playground equipment cleaned, briefly opened, then re-closed after city realized it violated Governor's order

Wait Park in Canby as seen May 27, 2020 (Hannah Ray Lambert)

CANBY, Ore. (KOIN) — After a glimpse of normalcy in the form of open swings and slides at parks in Canby on Wednesday, city officials abruptly announced the play structures were not in fact re-opening.

Clackamas County was approved for Phase 1 reopening beginning this Saturday.

However, on Wednesday morning, Mayor Brian Hodson posted on his Facebook page that the parks department was cleaning the playground equipment for use. He asked visitors to use “common sense hygiene practices” and to “social distance when possible.”

Shortly after noon, though, he published a new post stating in part, “I must retract my earlier pronouncement that the parks are open. According to the Governor’s Executive Order 20-25 playgrounds are still closed and this was confirmed by the Environmental Health Administration in an email to the city within the last half hour.”

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Interim City Administrator Amanda Zeiber told KOIN 6 News via email that they “had some overzealous people wanting to open the playground equipment.”

Staff briefly removed the closed signs, but reposted them this afternoon to discourage use, Zeiber wrote. Canby has not been using caution tape or other physical barriers during the closures since the community has honored the signs for the most part, according to Zeiber.

“I think a few people came out this morning during the confusion,” she wrote. “We know that people want to get outside and utilize the parks and playground equipment during this nice weather, but we also want to honor the health measures that are still in place during phase one.”

Hodson expressed disappointment, stating in part, “Our kids need to run, climb, and be social – basically be kids. I wanted our children to have the opportunity to return to some normalcy.” He also urged Governor Kate Brown to re-evaluate playgrounds in light of Phase 1 reopening.

One change that gets to stay: Parking is now allowed at Canby Community Park, which sits alongside the Molalla River. The green space had technically remained open to the public during the pandemic response, but visitors had to leave their cars elsewhere and walk to the park.

Bill Burks said he and his family used to hang out at Community Park regularly, but he hadn’t been down since the gates closed to cars. He happened to be driving by Wednesday when he saw that it had reopened.

Bill Burks was happy to see the Canby Community Park had reopened to vehicles and stopped by Wednesday, May 27, 2020 (Hannah Ray Lambert)

“A total accident, and a very good one,” Burks said.

Early Wednesday afternoon, it was mainly kids and teenagers hanging out by the pond, river or just on the grass, but Burks said it was starting to get a little busier as the afternoon went on.

“It looks like a normal day at the old park,” he said. “I feel very safe. It’s very good.”

Public restrooms at the parks have also reopened for people to “use at their own risk,” according to Zeiber. They will be cleaned and disinfected a minimum of five times a week.

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