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People, Places & Parks Thought Leadership

Should you be visiting your local park?

Park Pride

By Michael Halicki, Park Pride Executive Director

City of Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation’s COVID-19 cautionary signage.

You know it’s a strange time when an empty neighborhood park playground brings me a measure of comfort. On Sunday morning, Ormond-Grant Park was silent and empty, except for the sounds of nature. Absent were the usual gaggle of children running to and fro, the peals of laughter and excitement, and the parents on the seat wall chatting with one another, drinking their morning coffee.   

The City of Atlanta Parks Department’s signs were prominently displayed, urging park visitors “to practice social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” The sign went on to state that playgrounds, all courts (basketball, tennis, volleyball) and pavilions are CLOSED.” 

That guidance was well heeded at this park. Neighbors had taken the added measure to string red tape over the swings and playground. While I have seen a few families on picnic blankets and many walkers, the focal point of this neighborhood jewel—an amazing playground—has been eerily empty. As it should be, given the current circumstances.

Ormond-Grant Park neighbors taped off playground equipment to warn park goers.

I also checked out Grant Park. The open meadow had a scattering of families well distanced from each other, as well as walkers and runners who were keeping space while enjoying the benefits of nature. Aside from social distancing yard signs from the City and the Grant Park Conservancy, it looked like a regular Atlanta weekend at the park in springtime. 

The behaviors demonstrated at these two neighborhood parks—empty playgrounds and properly executed physical distancing—must be adopted by all communities in all corners of Atlanta immediately to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. 

In this time of crisis, Park Pride urges you to stay close to home and err on the side of caution. We recommend you follow the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention while visiting any location outside of your home, and especially while visiting parks and trails. In fact, Park Pride recommends visiting a park only if: 

  • You’re going to your neighborhood park, as opposed to traveling to a larger, regional park across town,
  • You’re visiting alone or only with members of your direct household
  • The park is not crowded, and you’re able to maintain six feet of distance from other park goers at all times, 
  • You can avoid contact with any hard surfaces on which the coronavirus can survive for extended periods of time; avoid playgrounds (they’re closed!), exercise equipment, water fountains, benches, etc.

Visitors to Grant Park practice proper social distancing.

Right now, parks are one of the few places to go to enjoy nature and physical and mental relief. However, we must exercise caution and restraint. If you cannot ensure that your park visit will meet the criteria above, we encourage you to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine available on a walk around your block, in your backyard, from your porch, or from a window.  

At our core, Park Pride is a community building and strengthening organization. It is not in our nature to dissuade families and communities from gathering in our city’s greenspaces. Yet, we are facing an unprecedented public health crisis which demands our attention and response. Your health and wellness, and the health of your family and neighbors, is our primary concern right now.

Signage from the Grant Park Conservancy reminds visitors to keep 6 ft of distance from others.

The situation is constantly evolving, and our recommendations may change again soon. What I do know for certain is that there will be a time on the other side of this pandemic where we will gather, play, picnic, and party in parks together once again. Playgrounds will reopen and will once again be filled with children, parents and good cheer.  

But until then, we must all do our part to stop the spread of this virus.    

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Do your part to stop the spread of this virus: share the visuals below with your family, friends, neighbors, and communities on social media. Thanks to Park Pride’s Project Manager, Teri Nye, for creating! 

 

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