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Daniel Bradwell, Harmonee Pack, Tyrone Cooper, Yriel McGee, Johnathan Bradwell and Willie Rainey huddle up to discuss an offensive play while practicing their football skills at Beach Park on Oct. 1. The team was preparing for a 7-on-7 football tournament.

The city of Bakersfield will allow religious services, fitness classes and youth sports to temporarily take place in city parks under a new program similar to one that allows restaurants to expand dining onto sidewalks and parking lots due to COVID-19 restrictions on indoor seating.

A special use permit offered through the Recreation and Parks Department is available at no-cost but groups must show that they are insured, said the department's director Dianne Hoover. An application is available online and takes five days to process.

Hoover said some groups had already started to use the parks for gatherings but it posed problems with maintenance schedules, such as when sprinklers turn on and lawns are mowed. Residents near smaller parks also complained about noise and crowded parking on streets.

The permit allows a better way to accommodate groups, Hoover said.

Nine parks among all city wards have been designated to accommodate the groups. They area Beach, Yokuts, The Park at River Walk, Greystone, Grissom, Wayside, Patriots, Siemon and Stiern.

Each park has bathrooms and off-street parking, Hoover said.

So far three groups have applied for the permit but Hoover declined to name them until the application is processed.

Under Kern County's current reopening status, churches and other houses of worship may only hold services outside, gyms are not allowed to reopen and youth sports can take place outside only.

Cities like San Clemente and San Diego have allowed similar use of their public parks for religious and sports programs.

Under normal circumstances, commercial operations are not allowed in parks, Hoover said.