Grant County residents enjoyed some fresh air Thursday after weeks of staying safe in their homes away from the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

Terri Couse, a Marion General Hospital communications specialist, strolled through Marion’s Matter Park with a black dog named Rocky who lives at the Grant County Humane Society.

“During this terrible pandemic, (Matter Park is) a great place to get some exercise and fresh air,” Couse said. “It’s way too nice.”

Matter Park has been a special place to Couse all her life, she said.

“I was born and raised in Marion. Way back in the days, my parents brought me to Matter Park,” Couse said. “Matter Park, in my opinion, is one of the best assets in Marion, and I think the city does a great job taking care of it.”

James Loftis, the City Wide Maintenance Director, said his team has dusted off their mowers to prepare for spring.

“The grass is getting greener, and stuff is starting to come back alive,” Loftis said. “We’re in the midst of getting all the mowers ready. The girls at the gardens have done a great job.”

The COVID-19 outbreak has taken a toll on the maintenance team, he said.

“This stuff here kind of hit at a bad time. It’s kind of like pushing us back,” Loftis said. “We will be struggling to keep up.”

Many of the workers are working on an on-call status during the stay-at-home order.

Events at the park, including the daddy-daughter dance and the Earth Day celebration, have been postponed.

“You don’t plan for something like this,” Loftis said. “If you don’t have to be around people, don’t. If we all just do what we are supposed to, it’ll get a lot better.”

Although people should practice social distancing and stay at least 6 feet apart from each other, Loftis said the park is a great place to come to get out of the house during the stay-at-home order.

“That park is so big that everybody can get out and walk and still have that distance,” Loftis said. “Get out there and enjoy that stuff because you’re going to go stir crazy just being in the house.”

High school sweethearts Marye Savard and Rod Jeffries reunited at Matter Park after finding each other on Facebook.

“I’m surprised she even remembered me,” Jeffries said.

Savard said she had moved away from Marion at the age of 18, returned two years ago, and was visiting Matter Park for the first time in decades.

“I haven’t been to Matter Park in years, and we were just talking about all of the changes over the years,” Savard said.

Jeffries and Savard reminisced about concerts, fireworks, the zoo and the pool that used to be at Matter Park years ago.

“I love the garden they put in,” Savard said. “We miss the zoo and the pool.”

Jeffries said he has been waiting for spring to fully arrive.

“The trees have already started budding,” Jeffries said. “They will have leaves before long, and then it will really get pretty out here.”

Because she has had cancer treatments, Savard said she is careful about coming in contact with the coronavirus, but will continue to enjoy the outdoors.

“My mother always said get out in the fresh air in the sunshine,” Savard said. “We need that. It’s healthy.”

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