Hagerman city park closed to large gatherings

Mayor wants to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in community
Published: Aug. 14, 2020 at 9:16 AM MDT
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HAGERMAN, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) -The mayor of Hagerman is facing public scrutiny from members of the public for closing the city park to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in his community.

Mayor Alan Jay admits Gooding County and the City of Hagerman haven't had a major issue with COVID-19. The South Central Public Health District is reporting that the County of Gooding has had only 176 total cases (probable and confirmed) and one death, as of Thursday. 

“I heard one of the businesses say he is doing 30 percent better than he used to, because everyone is coming to Hagerman to get away from the numbers of COVID-19 cases where they are coming from,” said Jay. 

With that said he made an executive decision at the end July to close the city park to large gatherings, because he is concerned about the rising cases in the state, the recent positive tests at the Hagerman cheerleader camp, and the city’s large elderly population. 

“This is a retirement community where I would say 70 percent of the community are elderly. . . a lot of them are in the higher age group like in the 80′s and 90′s,” said Jay. 

He also said the city park hosts many large gatherings during the summer that attract people from larger cities. Some of which are currently dealing with large volumes of COVID-19 cases. 

“We wanted to try to limit the chances of more COVID-19 coming into our community,” said Jay.

Since making his unilateral decision Jay said he has called the council members and received their support on his decision. 

“They agreed we have to do it now instead of waiting. . . with the elderly in this town  it could go through this town like an assisted living home. It can be devastating,” said Jay. 

The mayor said some people in the community have reached out to him to offer support, but others are a little more critical of his decision.

CJ Holmes, president of the Hagerman Valley Foundation, said her group hosts many large events in the park in Summer, and she is afraid the mayor's decision will hurt local vendors and businesses. 

“It seemed a little extreme to us because we have been holding our events there since June. A lot of the vendors and people that attend are older. We have had no trouble,” said Holmes.

Since the park closed in late July, Holmes and her group have relocated Hagerman Festivals & Farmers Markets, which used to be held every Sunday from June 14 to August 30 at the city park, to her property down the street in Hagerman. Holmes said the purpose of the event is to help small businesses. Since COVID-19 hit, a lot of vendors have seen events cancelled, and are happy Hagerman is still holding its event, but not happy it’s been relocated. She added local brick and mortar businesses along State Street enjoy the increased traffic coming into town, due to the parks proximity to their businesses. Holmes property, where the event is being held now, is away from the city’s business district and in a rural part of Hagerman. 

William Thomas, co-owner of Off-Grid Survival Pro, has a vendor booth nearly every Sunday at Hagerman Festivals & Farmers Markets, said when the event was held at the park he used to do $1,000 a week. Since it has relocated he has brought in less. 

“Now that we have had to move from the city park, last week we did $300 worth of business- this week we did $500 worth of business,” said Thomas. 

Holmes said she understands the mayor’s reasoning behind his decision, but she thinks it was a drastic one, considering the low number of cases in Hagerman. She also wishes the mayor had consulted members of the community and the city council before making his decision. 

“i think that would have been a lot more fair to everybody, including the businesses in town,” said Holmes. 

The mayor said right now there is no timeline for when the park will reopen to large gatherings, and anyone who has a large event will have to relocate to another location or cancel the event. 

The Hagerman Valley of Chamber of Commerce has a car show scheduled at the park for September 19, A Blast on the Grass Car Show. The mayor said at this time he doesn’t see that event happening at the park, and it’s up to the chamber of commerce on whether they want to relocate or cancel the event. 

“Public safety is my number one issue right now. Not money,” said Jay. 

Holmes fears the mayor’s decision is going to have a big impact on local business in Hagerman, but at this time she doesn’t plan on bringing her grievance to Hagerman City Council. 

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