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Indianola school and city officials said Tuesday that playgrounds are now closed. Parks are open for walking, if people maintain proper social distancing, but no one should play on the equipment.

While Indianola city parks are still open, Indianola playgrounds now bear signs reminding people to stay away.

“What we're learning is this virus can survive on these types of surfaces for an extended period of time,” said Indianola city manager Ryan Waller. “And we just don't have the staff power or the resources to disinfect these day after day after day.”

Several metro communities announced similar policies, said Waller.

“This does not mean you cannot walk through the park on your walk,” added Captain Brian Sher with the Indianola Police Department, which will enforce the ban. “As long as you're doing your social distancing, you can still walk through the park, enjoy the flowers that are coming up and all that. Just don't be playing on the playground.”

Restrooms in the parks will not be opened during the pandemic crisis, added Waller. Neither will Indianola’s brush dump. April’s citywide clean-up also is on indefinite hold, he said, since the vendor who provides the service said they can’t do it with the COVID-19 restrictions in place.

Despite the cancellations, the city’s focus overall is on preserving as many services as possible while maintaining social distancing and safe policies, said Waller.

Indianola Parks and Recreation is adding a new service — a Google map that tracks the location of bears in the Great Indianola Bear Hunt. Participants in the hunt can place bears in their windows and then search for bears in the windows of friends or neighbors as they’re out walking or driving around Indianola.

There are more than 150 bears listed on the web site created by Parks and Rec, and more than 2,200 people have viewed the bear hunt map by Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s been fun to watch the participation,” said Kathy Kester, marketing coordinator for Indianola Parks and Rec.

The family flashlight Easter Egg hunt, on the other hand, is getting a facelift. For almost 20 years, families have gathered at Pickard Park at dusk with their flashlights, ready to hunt for the thousands of eggs scattered around the field.

“An air horn starts the mad scramble, and participants spread across the field like a swarm of fireflies,” she said. “It’s a tradition that families have enjoyed year after year. But not this year.”

Since the social distancing rules forbid gatherings of more than 10 people Parks and Rec instead will deliver bags of candy-filled eggs to children living in the 50125 zip code on Friday and Saturday, April 3 and 4. Families outside the area can participate by picking up kits at the Indianola Activity Center, 2204 W. 2nd Ave., Friday at 6:30 p.m.

The event was planned for 120 kids, and Kester said there still may be spots available. Call 515-961-9420 to register or click here.

The Indianola Public Library is taking many of its activities online, said Michele Patrick, library director. They now offer one online story hour each week, at 10:30 a.m. on Thursdays, as well as a video of Janis Comer, children’s services librarian, making a craft that parents can do at home with their kids.

Patrick said 27 households watched the first story hour live, while others tuned into Facebook later. Story hours are online for a short window, she said, due to copyright restrictions.

The craft, the story hour and other services can be found on the library’s Facebook page.

The annual story walk also will move — readers will soon be able to walk around the Indianola Public Library and read a book, she said. The library also is expanding its use of e-books, with people able to access more books through the city’s online book vendor. And Patrick noted that there are unlimited magazines available to read online.

Even the Indianola police department is looking for new ways to serve, said Sher, sending police and fire trucks by some children’s birthday parties to bring a note of cheer when birthdays can be pretty quiet.

The visits serve two purposes, he said.

“It's something to do in this time, to reassure people that we're still there,” he said. “And maybe just add a hint of happiness a birthday celebration.”

Sher said people interested in a drive by should call 961-9400 and ask for Lieutenant Rob Hawkins. Waller said requests should be made in advance.

“Our primary function is public safety,” he said. “We’ll do the ones that we can, we love doing them.”

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