By CHELSEA DAVIS Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — With summer unofficially kicking off this weekend, area officials ask those celebrating the holiday to have fun but stay safe.
Parks Director Gene Rathje said while camping in Ottumwa Park began on April 1, this weekend is the site's first big weekend of the summer.
"It's first-come, first-served, but there are always open spots," he said. "It hardly ever fills up, so there's plenty of room for everyone."
In general, people camping in Ottumwa behave themselves, he said.
"Some of the people who have caused trouble in the past, we don't allow in the campground anymore," he said. "Sometimes people can get a little rowdy at night if they've had too many beverages, and we have to tell them to quiet down, but generally they behave pretty well."
And those wanting to try out their new bathing suits may have a chance on Monday. Rathje said he might open the outdoor pool on Monday, "but on Saturday and Sunday — definitely not."
A temperature of at least 70 degrees by 11 a.m. is required in order for the outdoor pool to open up.
April and May equate to long hours for the parks department, he said, with employees turning on water in the parks, mowing, preparing the outdoor pool at the Beach and manicuring cemeteries to prepare for families on Memorial Day.
"We don't try to control what people do," he said. "As long as they follow the rules and behave, have fun and enjoy our parks and facilities."
Those wishing to camp out in Ottumwa Park can head to the campground and speak with the campground hosts, Rathje said, since there are no advance reservations available. Fees are $9 for a tent per night and $15 for an RV per night.
Police Chief Tom McAndrew said Memorial Day weekend doesn't prove problematic for his officers, since they don't see an uptick in incidents or arrests over the three-day holiday.
"We really don't have any big problems on Memorial Day," he said. "We don't call in any extra people. Everyone is out doing their family thing. We just want everyone to have fun but use good judgment. We want people to be safe."
AAA reports slightly fewer Americans will travel from home over the weekend, though the majority of those who do will travel by car.
And as expected, gas prices are anticipated to increase over the weekend, averaging $3.65 per gallon nationwide, according to AAA. Locally, gas hit $3.97 per gallon at stations around Ottumwa on Thursday.
— To follow reporter Chelsea Davis on Twitter, head to @ChelseaLeeDavis.
Memorial Day closures: -- City of Ottumwa departments and offices at City Hall will be closed Monday. -- Ottumwa Public Library will be closed Monday. -- Ottumwa Transit Authority buses will not operate Monday. -- Ottumwa Water and Hydro Offices will be closed Monday. -- The Ottumwa/Wapello Landfill and Recycling Center will be closed Monday. Both facilities will be open regular hours, 7 a.m.-noon on Saturday. -- City residential trash collection routes normally collected on Monday will be postponed until Tuesday. -- South-side yard waste and bulky item pick-up day (normally Tuesdays) will be moved to Thursday. North- and south-side yard waste and bulkys will both be on Thursday next week only. -- The Ottumwa, Calvary and Jewish Cemetery office at 1302 N. Court St. will be closed through the weekend and on Monday. A "help center" tent will be open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday on cemetery grounds to assist cemetery visitors. -- The Beach Ottumwa will open for the holiday weekend at noon Saturday. The Beach will be open noon-8 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday, weather permitting. Admission is $5. -- Wapello County offices will be closed Monday.