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Local Parks Offer Variety of Safe Outdoor Activities in Midst of Pandemic

By SCOTT

McCLOSKEY

Staff Writer

Local community parks continue to offer visitors a variety of activities for those who are looking for safe and socially distant outdoor activities in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, according to local park officials.

Since state and local restrictions began emerging at the onset of the pandemic last year ­– Oglebay and Wheeling Park in Ohio County and Grand Vue Park in Marshall County continue to be popular destination choices for locals and visiting guests.

Whether it’s fishing, hiking, or just a drive through Oglebay’s annual Winter Festival of Lights, Wheeling Park Commission Executive Vice President Rod Haley said Oglebay and Wheeling Park have continued to see an increase in people taking advantage of the many outdoor activities offered at both parks.

“We try to maintain our trails and a lot of people are hiking on the hardwood trails as well as the asphalt trails,” Haley said.

He added that Oglebay had a very strong Festival of Lights this past holiday season because it was an activity that allowed families to drive through the park in their own cars and remain away from crowds.

“All of the activities and events that we plan, we keep in mind the social distancing and spacing, so we changed our activities to reflect that,” Haley explained.

Just around the Schenk Lake area alone, visitors were able to enjoy activities like fishing, paddle boats, kayaks and the nearby aerial challenge.

“We were able to do all that,” Haley said. “It just required a lot more sanitation between uses and more spacing.”

Haley said the both parks have continued to closely follow safety guidelines set by local and state health officials.

“It’s just working very closely with the (Wheeling-Ohio County) Health Department, the West Virginia Governor’s office and the CDC and trying to make sure we can adapt to all the guidelines the best we can,” Haley explained.

He said both parks follow all the normal guidelines that involve cleaning and disinfecting, masks, and social distancing.

Haley said while park officials remain hopeful things will continue to improve in 2021 and beyond, they will continue to follow the necessary guidelines in place for the safety of their visitors and employees.

“If we still have to deal with some of the requirements, we’ll adapt,” he said, “but we’ll still give the community somewhere to come and play in a safe environment.”

Craig White, general manager of Grand Vue Park in Moundsville said the park has become an even more popular destination for area residents as they search for safe outdoor activities in the midst of the pandemic.

White said that, with all the safety protocols they have put in place with the tremendous assistance of Marshall County Health Department Administrator Tom Cook and his staff, they were able to move forward by continuing to offer many of their outdoor activities.

“We did everything based on what the governor said … and then we went down and met with Tom (Cook) and we tried to figure the best way to make that happen,” White explained while talking about safety protocols put in place last year and the reopening of the park’s swimming pool. He said they continue to spray down and sanitize surfaces and facilities after each use. “So we’ve gone through the process that has been approved through Tom (Cook) and CDC regulations,” White commented. He said many of the popular activities were things that people could do by themselves or in small groups and easily socially distant from others. Some of those activities included walking, hiking, mountain biking and disc golf.

“We did open the zip lines and follow the state guidelines the state put out for rafting and ziplining and we were able to go forward with that,” White said.

He said since weddings were considered to be essential under state guidelines they were still able to conduct wedding receptions at a 50-percent capacity based on the same rules that restaurants have in place.

White is quick to point out that not only is he excited about the activities and events they currently offer at the park for visitors, but he is also excited about some positive announcements the park has made this week concerning the construction of a new 40 site RV park, the revitalization of the swimming pool, and the addition of a new “hammock garden” this year.

“I’m looking forward to what’s going to happen in the future because we’ve spent this time preparing for a lot of new things that are going to happen (at the park),” White explained. “Those are huge announcements for Grand Vue Park this year and we’ve upgraded our cabins at this time, all in an effort to give the guests a better and more positive experience.”

Just this week, the Marshall County Park & Recreation Board and the Grand Vue Park Leadership Team announced the construction of a 40 site RV park. With RV travel being one of the fastest growing industries in tourism, these sites will bring many new visitors to Grand Vue, as well as to Marshall County. The RV Park will be located past the Vue Bar & Grill at the location of the former par-3 golf course. Each site will be 65 feet long and have an area for a tow vehicle and full hookups — water, electric, sewage, TV and Wi-Fi. A picnic area and firepit also come with each spot.

In addition to developing a new RV park, they will also be revitalizing the park’s swimming pool. The design of the pool will encompass features that all ages will be able to enjoy, according to White. In order to construct the new pool area, the existing pool will not be available for use this summer (2021); however Grand Vue will be accommodating their park guests by offering shuttle service to other pools in the local area.

“We are going to be building a new pool. … We’re actually going to be closing the pool this year and tearing it out and preparing for 2022,” White commented.

The park will also be designing a “hammock garden” this year where guests will have an additional site to relax and enjoy.

“So we’re doing things like that, and we’re putting paintball in a different area. So we are going to actually move that (location) so it is more visible, White said. “I’m all about moving forward. I think across the nation, I think parks’ usage was up just for people getting out. From that perspective we’ve had a ton of people enjoy Grand Vue Park.”

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