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Oxford Park Commission ready to get back to work

The Oxford Park Commission is fully staffed once again and ready to pick up where they left off in the spring before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Lafayette County.

After having 99 percent of their department furloughed three months ago as part of the the City of Oxford’s attempt to soften the blow of projected revenue losses due to the pandemic, OPC’s employees returned on Monday.

The first order of business for OPC is to re-organize their spring soccer season that was interrupted by the pandemic in March and had not really gotten started. Registration for the soccer season had already been completed and fees collected by OPC, which is why they are resuming outdoor sports offerings with completing a season that had already been paid for by families.

“That’s the first thing we want to do is get youth spring soccer season going again,” said OPC community relations director John Davis. “We want them to play because, ‘Hey, we’re back.’ We hadn’t been playing because we were all gone. Our entire staff was gone. …You’re still honoring, you’re giving the commitment to them.”

Coaches are being contacted regarding the spring season, that will now begin possibly sometime next month. The hope of OPC is to resume practices in August once they also contact the players that had registered to see who all still wants to play. Any player that chooses to not play will get a full refund, Davis said.

Once the spring soccer season is completed, OPC will transition directly into a joint baseball and softball season. With multiple turf fields at mTrade Park, it allows for both sports to be played simultaneously. There will not be a traditional fall soccer season this year with the spring season being completed and if there is any new outdoor sport offered this year that OPC decides to hold pre-registration for it would possibly be flag football.

Protocols and policies are now being worked on for a return to play guide once OPC can resume outdoor sports safely. Those policies will be relayed to the coaches who will then relay them to the players and their families.

While outdoor sports are able to be provided once again by OPC, the two activity centers next to the John Leslie Tennis Complex remain dormant and empty due to the current Executive Orders mandating the number of people allowed indoors. The current number is 20 people at an indoor gathering if social distancing is possible, which means community centers such as the Ulysses “Coach” Howell Activity Center is unable to be used.

The winter basketball season is also in limbo with OPC waiting to see if the indoor gathering number will be raised high enough to allow for their league to be played. Registration for basketball usually begins in October, according to Davis.

“You’ve got a brand new facility here that’s not getting touched by the community and hasn’t been getting touched by the community for 90-plus days,” Davis said. “This is a jewel. This is a centerpiece when things are going well. I’ve said to other people that the Oxford Park Commission really should be the doorway to the community. But when things aren’t going well we’re not able to be the tip of the spear like we’ve been at other times. I want that to change. I want that to change for us, for the mental health and the physical health of everybody.”

The Leisure Lifestyles program, which is geared towards the older members of Oxford’s community, is still currently on pause with most of the classes offered being held indoors. There are swim classes offered but the city pool has been closed this summer and will remain closed for the rest of the year.