As people try to visualize what a summer during a public health pandemic will look like, the Steele County Parks and Recreation Department is doing all they can to continue services as normal.

During the regular county Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday, Parks and Rec Director Steve Schroht recommended that the county move forward with operating the park and beach at Beaver Lake near Ellendale as usual. Aside from the picnic pavilions, fishing pier, and hiking trails that have remained open to the public, the action will allow county parks and rec employees to maintain and operate the beach house into the month of August.

“Quite a few residents have said that with the warmer weather [Beaver Lake] is getting a lot of use,” Schroht said to the board. “Just this morning when I went out there I had to dump every single garbage can, so it is clearly getting a lot of use and I see it only getting more as we go on through the summer.”

The commissioners unanimously approved putting in the buoys at the beach and opening the beach house Saturday. Schroht said that the buoys serve as an important safety precaution both to alert swimmers of a drop off in the lake’s depth as well as to keep boats away from the swimming area. Schroht is also working with Steele County Public Health to create signs that encourage social distancing. Those will be posted throughout the park area and on the beach.

The beach house is available to the public Friday through Sunday during the summer months.

In addition to opening and operating Beaver Lake County Park and beach, the commissioners also approved the installation of the summer ice at the Four Seasons Centre with skating available beginning July 6. Summer ice has been a part of summer recreation options in Steele County since 2001, but Schroht explained that this summer provides a very unique opportunity for revenue.

“If I book just one hour of skate time in August, that will already be more revenue for that month than we have ever had,” Schroht said, explaining that with the cancelation of the Steele County Free Fair that the ice installed in July will be able to remain in place until March 2021. “This eliminates one time of putting in the ice and taking it out, and I believe that if we don’t do this it will be a missed opportunity for us.”

Schroht believes groups will jump at the chance to skate throughout the summer; especially in August when skating typically isn’t an option. He said that the youth hockey association is already talking about an earlier registration date and that it could provide their usual fall clinic earlier as well.

“I think there is going to be a lot of demand during the month of August simply because they have never had that opportunity before,” Schroht said. With the current social distancing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Schroht said that open skate will not be an option at this time, but that groups can make skating reservations. Reservations can be made by contacting the Four Seasons Centre at 507-451-1093.

In addition to operating Beaver Lake County Park and the summer ice, Schroht said that all furloughed workers for the county Parks and Rec Department will return to work, with the potential opportunity to bring back some part-time staff.

“It’s not just going to be what we’re doing with the summer ice and Beaver Lake, but it’s the stages and pavilion rentals and everything else,” Schroht said. “We’re trying to get back to operating as much as normal.”

Reach Reporter Annie Granlund at 507-444-2378 or follow her on Twitter @OPPAnnie. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota.

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