Brainerd summer rec programs on hold as staff awaits Walz’s next steps

Registration for summer programs is suspended until Gov. Tim Walz gives further instruction on his stay-at-home order.

Memorial Park ball field shown here Wednesday, April 8, 2020, in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Summer parks and recreation activities are still up in the air in Brainerd.

With no certainty on whether Gov. Tim Walz will lift his stay-at-home order Monday, May 4, as planned, or if COVID-19 safety measures will be in place longer, the parks and recreation department is at a standstill now, but staffers have a plan.

Parks Director Tony Sailer told board members Tuesday, April 28, his staff can be ready to get programs up and running whenever Walz gives the go ahead.

Some of the adult softball leagues were supposed to have started earlier this week, and the registration for competitive youth baseball and softball leagues was April 17. Other youth programs — like soccer, kickball, basketball, tennis, T-ball and non-competitive baseball leagues — had registration deadlines of May 15. But as of right now, all leagues and registrations are suspended.

If Walz lifts the stay-at-home order May 4, Sailer said that April 17 registration date can be moved to May 8. After working to hire umpires and recreational aids, do background checks, get coaches on board and organize teams, games could start as early as June 15 and go through late July with single elimination playoffs.


“As we all know, nobody knows what’s going to be happening here with the social distancing,” Sailer said. “And we were instructed to kind of look at end dates and then work our way back.”

If things can’t get started until toward the end of July, though, Sailer said he would look to morph the summer leagues into a summer/fall or just a fall league, potentially running from mid-August to mid-October. Or, the competitive leagues could be canceled altogether with just skills clinics and scrimmages scheduled.

The non-competitive leagues and adult leagues, Sailer said, could get up and running easier were Walz to announce an end to the stay-at-home order, as they take less work to organize. All the adult teams are already registered and ready to go, and the non-competitive youth leagues are essentially more like skills clinics and don’t require umpires or team drafts.

“We can’t focus on what we don’t know. We can focus on what we do know,” Sailer said. “And what we do know the time and effort it’s going to take to mobilize and get all the pieces put together before the kids can hit the field.”

Board members thanked Sailer and his staff for all their hard work and agreed to suspend registrations for now, knowing they could start programs at a later date depending on Walz’s decisions.

In the event leagues get canceled altogether, those who have registered will get their fees returned.

In the meantime, Recreation Coordinator Katie Kaufman said she is working to put together options for activities community members can do more remotely at the city parks to encourage them to get outside during the absence of team sports. She also suggested taking a community survey to see what kinds of activities residents want to see right now.

Parks service closures and changes

Park facilities, including restrooms, pavilions, the Lum Park campground and the tennis courts at Gregory Park remain closed until at least May 12. The parks board is set to meet May 12 to determine next steps.


This year’s bike safety clinic and kids fishing clinic are canceled.

Buster Dog Park and city ballparks remain open, but the public is cautioned not to congregate and encouraged to practice social distancing measures.

The community garden will be tilled April 30, and gardeners will be allowed to access the garden on a schedule that will allow for social distancing.

Updated cancellation or postponement information is available on the Brainerd Parks and Recreation Facebook page, or by calling 218-828-2320.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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