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Three teenage boys watch the fireworks at Ariel-Foundation Park on July 4, 2019.

MOUNT VERNON – It is with great disappointment that the City of Mount Vernon and the Foundation Park Conservancy announce the cancellation of July 4th Independence Day festivities, including concerts and fireworks, at Ariel-Foundation Park.

The decision comes after continued monitoring of the COVID-19 situation, and advisement from the Ohio Department of Health and Julie Miller of Knox Public Health.

“With the order of large group gatherings still being in question, it seems that this is the more prudent decision,” said Mayor Matt Starr. “I know we are all wanting to get back to some kind of normality. With other cities canceling their fireworks displays, there is a strong likelihood of attracting even more spectators to the city and putting us at a higher risk.

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"It is disappointing, but there are too many risks left up to chance when we know the COVID-19 virus is still among us. Families will have to find other safe and creative ways to celebrate our independence, which I’m sure we can do, and make this a memorable time despite the circumstances.”

Ariel-Foundation Park is still open to the public. It is the park’s goal to continue to be an open, safe place for families and individuals to explore the nature, be physically active and take a respite from the stress of daily life during this unusual time.

The park welcomes the Knox County community, as well as visitors, to continue enjoying three beautiful lakes for kayaking and fishing; unique sculptures and historic structures; the wildflower/pollinator garden, and more than 250 acres for walking, hiking and running.

“We were really looking forward to celebrating July 4th and the park’s fifth anniversary with our community this year, but we also have a responsibility to keep both our residents and out-of-town guests safe in today's environment,” explained Conservancy President Kim Rose.

“We greatly appreciate the assistance of Health Commissioner Miller, Mayor Starr and Safety Director Dzik's insight and wisdom as we worked through this decision. Though it was difficult, we are confident we have reached the right decision.”

Park leaders plan to open restrooms on May 12; they will be sanitized a minimum of two times daily. The two largest picnic pavilions remain closed for now. Rastin Observation Tower and the Urton Clock House/Museum will reopen once it is deemed safe by public health officials and appropriate supplies can be obtained for staff, proper cleaning and sanitizing.

For more information, visit www.arielfoundationpark.org or follow the park on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.