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Gladstone recreation ready and waiting

Courtesy photo Gladstone boardwalk is shown with damage due to high water levels from Little Bay de Noc.

GLADSTONE — Gladstone Parks and Recreation Director Nicole Sanderson is living up to her mission statement online, even during a pandemic, “Our mission is to provide safe, efficient, quality recreational opportunities.”

“As soon as we get a go ahead to open, we’re open, we’re ready,” said Sanderson.

There are many areas the Parks and Recreation Department maintain, Gladstone Bay Campground, John and Melissa Besse Sports Park, the harbor, beach, seven neighborhood playgrounds, and the boardwalk. During a recent interview, Sanderson provided updated information on all areas and more.

The department was proactive last fall, cleaning and storing items at the campground.

“We touched up where work was needed,” said Sanderson.

She said it is unclear when Gladstone will be able to open their campground. State park campgrounds are planning to open June 22, but Sanderson is trying to find out if Gladstone will be able to open earlier on May 28.

“We refunded, or moved reservations up until June 1,” Sanderson said. “If we can open sooner we will.”

The John and Melissa Besse Sports Park is maintained though baseball leagues have been canceled. Disc golf and playground areas are open, according to Sanderson. Rentals of the sports park are planned to start June 1.

The Gladstone Harbor is currently open to previous slip owners who have seasonal slips. Sanderson said the water and electrical hookups are good, but the gas pumps and harbor master shack are not available.

“If a boat needs gas the owner is required to pull the boat out of the water to gas it up,” she said. “The boat launch is open, but their are no facilities though.”

This year the beach in Gladstone will open without lifeguards or a concession stand. Swimmers will swim at their own risk.

“We are grooming the beach, tiki torches will go up, and the bathrooms and showers will open when it is allowed,” Sanderson said.

Currently seven neighborhood playgrounds are blocked off to residents so they cannot use them due to the stay-at-home order. The skate park is not blocked off but is considered a playground and is full of sand and not open for use.

“We have to find out if the water slide can go back into the Bay. It is considered a piece of playground equipment. It has to be ok’d first,” Sanderson said. “Though the playgrounds are closed, all walking trails are open. We have kept them maintained.”

Trying to open park and recreation areas for the summer is tough during a pandemic, it is even harder with record water levels causing havoc from Lake Michigan’s Little Bay de Noc to Gladstone’s shoreline.

“The boardwalk is completely destroyed. We’re going to see what the water level does in the next few years before replacing it,” said Sanderson.

The boardwalk was closed to public July 2019 due to unsafe conditions of the structure. The closure will continue through the 2020 season.

Other activities Sanderson has planned for the summer are still in play. The Beautification of Gladstone and 4th of July festivities are going forward, but the 4th of July parade is still being decided.

“It would be too hard to social distance everyone who is normally sitting or standing elbow to elbow while watching the parade,” she said. “I’ve ordered the fireworks. We’re going to have bands in the evening, beer, food. I believe people know how to keep a safe distance from each other throughout the park.”

Sanderson has not canceled the summer concert series that will start in June on Thursdays, 7 to 9 p.m.

“I know how important it is to get out. The department and the city will safely open parks and green spaces,” said Sanderson. “The outdoors is essential to our well-being. I’m not ready to throw in the towel. That’s not how Gladstone rolls. We are going to do everything we can to get people out safely.”

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