Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
August 21, 2020
Fernandina Beach City Commissioners (FBCC) have been lobbied by youth sports organizations to open up city ball fields to team sports and competitions despite concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While sympathetic, the FBCC has decided to withhold final decision until at least August 24, 2020.
At the FBCC’s August 18, 2020 Regular Meeting, commissioners discusssed a proposal from Commissioner Chip Ross that would allow team sports on City fields, provided the sports organizations agreed to certain conditions. Ross laid out a series of steps requiring the sponsoring organization to provide a written plan that would explain how COVID guidelines would be implemented and enforced, as well as requiring waivers from parents of participating players. Commissioners were in basic agreement on the need for such a plan.
During their discussion of the requests from the various youth leagues that use City fields — Babe Ruth, Pop Warner, Soccer — Commissioners expressed concerns about protocols for parents and spectators as well. They also agreed that enforcement is a key element of the plan that cannot be delegated casually.
Two speakers addressed the FBCC, one of whom urged reopening the fields to league sports, while the second urged restraint at this time.
City Attorney Tammi Bach amd City Parks and Recreation Director Nan Voit met subsequently to prepare a letter spelling out these requirements that would be sent to all youth sports organizations desiring to use City fields as well as a waiver that all parents would be required to sign.
The memo to the sports leagues requires the following information, which must be submitted to Jason Brown ([email protected]) in the Parks and Recreation Department no later than September 8th in order to be permitted to use City facilities:
1. A written plan to allow organized youth sports on City fields during the pandemic, must be submitted to and approved by the Parks and Recreation Department prior to the use of City fields by any organization. The plan needs to follow an approved plan recommend by a State, Regional, or National youth organization or the health department for each team sport.
2 The plan must include a statement on how the guidelines will be enforced and by whom.
3. The plan must contain a statement on what will happen if the plan is not followed.
4. Before participating the organization must obtain a waiver signed by parents or guardians. The waiver will be provided by the City attorney.
5. Initially fields will be open for practice only. When the Nassau County School system allows competition between schools, then the City will allow competition between teams.
Although not stated in the memo, the plan willl be subject to review by City officials and County health authorities prior to any grant of permission.