By Lucas Vader
At a June 23 special meeting preceding an executive session, the Delta City Council decided the final piece to the annual Independence Day fireworks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After some discussion, the council agreed to have city staff close the roads to Confluence Park, not allowing traffic or parking in the area. Instead, the request is for residents of the area to watch the fireworks show from a distance to ensure social distancing, avoiding gatherings in Confluence Park altogether.
The roads into the park will be closed throughout the day, beginning at 10 p.m. Friday and ending 7 a.m. Sunday.
Delta Police Chief Luke Fedler took the direction from council in order to plan the closure. Fedler, who had originally recommended the cancelation of the fireworks show primarily due to the probability that the attraction would be too much for law enforcement to handle, reminded the council that law enforcement would not enforce social distancing if the park was to remain open.
“I have serious concerns — and I do believe we’ll see lawsuits come out of this — that if you’re asking law enforcement to enforce a civil order criminally, there could be ramifications down the road,” Fedler said. “This, again, is a public health issue, not a criminal issue.”
The council agreed that the enforcement of social distancing should not be a responsibility for the Delta Police Department. They also all agreed that letting people drive into Confluence Park and park their vehicles, like any other year, would be a recipe for public arguments over COVID-19-related matters such as whether people should stay in their cars and whether they should be wearing masks, to name a few.
One possibility previously discussed was to request that people pull in and stay in their cars to watch the show, but that request was deemed unfeasible.
“I don’t think people are going to stay in their cars,” Councilman Ryan Crick said on the matter. “If you come to see fireworks, you’re not going to be able to stay in your car. My guess is people are going to sit around their cars kind of like they do at the drive-in.” Crick’s statement was met by unanimous council agreement.
With the road closures in place, however, council decided to specify that the park is closed to “vehicle traffic” but not to go as far as to say that people aren’t allowed there. People are therefore left with the option of hiking into Confluence Park if they wish, with the strong recommendation that people watch from home.
“If they want to walk into the park and do their thing, hey, social distance,” Councilman Kevin Carlson said. “You guys, that’s your call, but we are not going to facilitate parking because there’s no way in heck — I don’t care if we’ve got all the volunteers in this town — that it’s not going to turn into a [fight].”
With the roads closed, the council also hopes that the restriction discourages spectator crowds from neighboring cities where fireworks shows are canceled altogether.