Slammed Shut: the basketball goal at Decatur’s Winnona Park Elementary where, for an indeterminate period, no dunks nor long range jumpers will grace this net. Bill Banks for the AJC

Hoopless in Decatur: basketball goals removed from city park courts

In the 1970s Sports Illustrated writer Rick Telander wrote a book about outdoor basketball in New York City called “Heaven is Playground.” This week Decatur residents discovered the unthinkable, that not even heaven is immune to the coronavirus outbreak.

Goals have been removed or covered up from all outdoor courts in city parks, with the school system following suit on its courts. On the outdoor court at Winnona Park Elementary the goals were smothered by plywood secured by plastic orange mesh.

On Tuesday Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, noting that Atlanta city parks and trails remain crowded, was quoted by the AJC as saying “It’s very clear that [social isolation and the emergency stay-at-home orders are] still not resonating with many people.”

Decatur issued its own Emergency Stay At Home order on March 25 prohibiting city residents from leaving their homes except for “essential activities, essential governmental functions, or to operate essential businesses.” Like Atlanta, Decatur didn’t shutter its city parks

“We’re not having the same challenges that Atlanta has,” Decatur City Manager Andrea Arnold said Tuesday. “They’re a large city with a lot of people congregating. For us, our parks look good. But our biggest challenge is large groups of kids playing basketball on the outdoor courts. So this week we’re taking them all (goals) down.”

On Wednesday (April 1) the city will also issue and post a graphic with reminders of what social distancing entails, including no gatherings of more than 10, no parties, no play dates for kids and, alas, no hooping.

“We don’t want to close any parks if we don’t have too,” Arnold said. “We believe it’s extremely important to get out and walk or run or get some kind of exercise. Just maintain the proper distancing.”

Arnold added that to date only one city employee (on March 20) has tested positive for COVID-19.

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