Charlotte Rhoades Park (pictured), playgrounds, and other Town of Southwest Harbor facilities are now open to the public. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Town opens public facilities



SOUTHWEST HARBORChildren have been given the go ahead by the selectmen to use the playground in town as of Tuesday. 

During their meeting via Zoom, members of the Board of Selectmen voted in favor of opening the public restrooms on Village Green Way, Charlotte Rhoades Park and the playground by the end of this week. A stipulation of the motion to open the restrooms was that they be cleaned twice a day by town employees.  

Opening of the public facilities was prompted by a request from the town’s conservation commission to open Charlotte Rhoades Park with some conditions. Reconstruction took place at the butterfly park last year to provide increased parking at the site on Main Street. Over the last few seasons, there has been an increase in the number of visitors to the park.  

Guidelines stated by members of the commission included a 25-foot berth between groups visiting, no picnic tables for this season, not opening the barn or public restrooms and setting the park hours from 11 a.m. to sunset. Opening later in the day would allow park employees and volunteers to tend to the gardens, explained Town Manager Justin VanDongen 

Selectman Chad Terry asked why 25 feet of distance between groups of people was necessary, and VanDongen replied that it was to account for out-of-state visitors and children. When selectmen voted to open the park, they agreed the recommended distance of 6 feet met requirements for social distancing.  

“I don’t think it will be difficult at all for people to enjoy that space,” said Selectman Kristin Hutchins 

Terry then asked if the town’s public playground could also be opened.  

“I feel our playground is brand new and we ought to be using it,” he said during the meeting, pointing out that Bar Harbor has opened its playgrounds. “Kids are going stir crazy. They haven’t even seen other kids in three months… Some kids haven’t seen any kids, and I think that is going to do something to their mental (health).” 

Public facilities within the town, including the town office and the police department, have been closed since mid-March due to COVID-19. Employees of the town office provided service through a window for about a week in March before shutting down all contact with the public. That service window was recently reopened for business transactions.  

Next week, one service counter inside the office is scheduled to open to the public. Visitors to the town office will be required to wear a mask and maintain proper social distance when conducting business. 

Employees of the town office continued to work both remotely and a few days at the office throughout the time it was closed to the public.  

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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