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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Great Parks Cuts Budget, Reinstates Vehicle Permits

Tana Weingartner
Visitors take in the spring wildflowers at Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve in April 2020.

The number of people visiting Great Parks of Hamilton County is up but revenues remain down.

The park district says visits are up 34% and trail use 83%, but its had to cut its budget by $4.7 million, approximately 11%, to make up for lost revenues.

While revenues had been treading slightly ahead of projections in February, the district reports revenues dipped 60% below projections by the end of April because of the pandemic closures.

Almost 800 part-time employees were put on leave in March. Nearly 300 were hired back at the start of June as things begin to reopen.

"This was a difficult decision," writes Great Parks' CEO Todd Palmeter in a statement. "However my recommendation to the Board to take action was to assure we remain sustainable while still serving the residents of Hamilton County."

Great Parks also began requiring motor vehicle permits on Monday.

"As we enter the summer season, Great Parks is working diligently to restore the full operation of amenities and programming while keeping the health and safety of our guests the top priority," Palmeter says.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.