Parks and Recreations During COVID-19 Outbreak
The MTRPA is sending out a big THANK YOU to our state, federal, and local Montana parks and recreation departments and agencies for quickly adapting and acting to keep our public healthy and mentally sane during the COVID-19 outbreak!
While we are entering a new phase of this outbreak, departments across the state are working hard with Montana’s Reopening The Big Sky Phased Approach to get back to some normalcy. This is exciting, however, as Governor Bullock said while announcing plans to begin phased reopening of Montana, “While there is reason for optimism this is not a time for celebration. I am going to ask Montanans to continue to go to great lengths to protect one another, to continue looking out for our neighbors who need it the most, and to continue being vigilant in every step we take.” For parks and recreation professionals, that means continuing to social distance in parks and taking precautions to keep our community safe while giving them access to green space.
MTRPA Board Highlights Departments Around The State
MTRPA Board of Directors met via Zoom on April 20th to discuss changes to our annual conference, ways the state has been affected by the outbreak, and plans moving forward. While our annual conference planed for April 19th – 22nd was officially cancelled in March, we continue to work toward alternatives to gather parks and recreation professionals across Montana this year at MLCT 2020. The board also discussed how each department is handling the changes differently. Here are some highlights from around the state:
City of Whitefish Parks & Recreation
- Printed signage to PACK IN and PACK OUT trash.
- Working with local nonprofits to encourage the community to support local commerce impacted by COVID-19.
- Continual updates of the evolving reopening plan posted on-line http://www.cityofwhitefish.org/parks-and-recreation/staff-and-news.php
Livingston Parks & Recreation
- Created a hashtag movement #LivingstonVirtualRec with activities using social media including teddy “Bear Hunt” and “Movement Bingo” and other challenges for the community to take part in together.
Montana State Parks
- Continually posting updates on-line about response, closures, and re-openings at http://stateparks.mt.gov/about-us/updates/default.html
- Most state park campgrounds opened May 1st with reduced amenities/services and social distancing guidelines.
- 14 day quarantine signage posted at campgrounds for of out of state visitors.
- All visitor centers and park offices remain closed in compliance with the Governor’s social distancing directives.
Billings Parks and Recreation
- Removed basketball hoops and tennis nets.
- Billings’ “Parks’ Policeman” increased enforcement to support safe parks.
Bozeman Parks & Recreation
- Closed and signed all playgrounds, climbing boulders, and skate parks.
- Signed popular parks, trailheads and dog parks about appropriate usage during COVID-19
- Partnered with United Way to utilize closed recreation facilities for essential employee emergency day-care
- Created a virtual (Facebook and Instagram) neighborhood park highlight. Three days/week a different park employee does a 60 second neighborhood park highlight to showcase walkability and remind residents about proper park and trail usage during the outbreak.
- Staying engaged through virtual programing such as a virtual eater egg hunt and a virtual “camp in”
Missoula Parks & Recreation
- Split maintenance crew into two groups to reduce chance infection of the whole crew.
- Ambassador program to educate about physical distancing in parks.
- Using Facebook Ads to reach the community about the importance of physical distancing in parks and educating about our fragile ecosystem.
What is your department doing to keep your community safe?
Every city/county has different Emergency Response Activation Levels. There are no two parks and recreation departments that are applying the exact same procedures as every area has had to react differently. Have you had success or failures implementing restrictions or preparing to reopen in your area? Please share with us.
Parks & Recreation COVID-19 Resources
We have gathered some resources for you and your staff to reference. Please share with anyone.
Resources to Montana’s Reopening Phased Approach
- Directive on Phased Reopening of Montana and Establishing Conditions for Phase One 4.22.20
- Reopening Montana Phased Approach
- Phase One Reopening FAQs
National Recreation and Park Association Resources
Below are some resources and the prepared statement from NRPA.
The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) prepared the following statement in support of the safe use of parks and open spaces during the COVID-19 outbreak. Reference Link: https://www.nrpa.org/about-national-recreation-and-park-association/press-room/NRPA-statement-on-using-parks-and-open-space-while-maintaining-social-distancing/
Concerns about the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak continue to grip our nation. As organizations that support the power of parks and open spaces as essential resources for health and wellness, we understand that people may have questions and concerns about visiting their local parks, trails or open spaces at this time.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has flagged mental health as a top concern associated with the COVID-19 outbreak. We recognize that physical distancing may take a toll on our mental health, especially during high-stress and anxiety-producing global public health emergencies. We also know that parks provide a connection to the outdoors and green space as well as opportunities for physical activity which studies demonstrate reduces stress and improves mental health.
We believe that many parks, trails and open spaces can continue to be used in a safe manner that allows people to enjoy the mental and physical health benefits these spaces provide. In all instances, we recommend people follow local, state and national ordinances and guidelines regarding the use of these spaces and recognize that these vary from community to community.
In places where there are no restrictions on the use of local parks, trails and open spaces, we encourage all users to follow these recommendations:
- Refrain from using parks or trails if they are exhibiting symptoms.
- Follow CDC’s guidance on personal hygiene prior to and during use of parks or trails.
- Prepare for limited access to public restrooms or water fountains.
- While on trails, warn other users of their presence and as they pass, and step aside to let others pass.
- Follow CDC guidance on the recommended size of social gatherings including outdoor picnicking, pick-up sports and other group hangouts, and maintain proper physical distance at all times.
- Observe CDC’s minimum recommended physical distancing of 6 feet from other individuals at all times. If this is not possible, users should find an alternate location or depart that space.
- Consult their local and state ordinances and guidelines for the most up to date recommendations on park and trail use.
We encourage local jurisdictions to keep parks, trails and open spaces accessible as long as it is safe to do so.
Our local parks, trails and open spaces have always served as places where people can find respite and seek peace and restoration. During this time of uncertainty, these places are needed now more than ever. Our nation’s park and recreation professionals are working hard to maintain these spaces and keep them safe, accessible and benefiting our communities during these challenging times. Let us all do our part to use them in a way that respects each other and public health guidance.
For more information about NRPA’s response to COVID-19 and available resources for park and recreation professionals, as well as download options for the infographic above, please see our Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) webpage.
Following are the park and recreation agencies, partners and like-minded organizations who have responded to support continued use of our parks and open spaces during the COVID-19 outbreak:
*This number was updated on March 27, 2020, to reflect the current number of organizations that support the safe use of parks and open spaces during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Park, Facility and Playground Resources
- Statement: The National Recreation and Park Association Statement on Playgrounds and Play Structures During COVID-19 Pandemic, NRPA, March 30, 2020
- NRPA understands the important value playgrounds and play structures provide to communities across the country, but given the current situation and the guidance from public health officials on physical distancing, we believe that playgrounds and play structures should temporarily close in an effort to reduce community spread.
- Health.gov: Staying Active While Social Distancing: Questions and Answers, April 7, 2020
- CDC Recommendations on Cleaning and Disinfection
- OSHA Guidance on COVID-19
- Infographic on Physical Distancing in Parks and Trails (To copy or share the image, click on it to open the full size in a new tab, then right click the image and choose “save as” or copy and paste into a document.)
Download NRPA infographic at: https://www.nrpa.org/contentassets/991084e170d241c29d4ca93ee3b04bbe/covid19-urban-parks-hi-res-web.jpg
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Resources on Drinking Water, Recreational Water and Wastewater
- Guidance from CDC stating there is no evidence COVID-19 can be spread to humans through pools with proper operation, maintenance and disinfection.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Extended Hot Tub/Spa Closures
- Guidance from CDC on closing hot tubs and spas for extended periods of time.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Guidance for Building Water Systems
- Guidance from CDC on reopening water systems and ensuring the safety of your systems after a prolonged shutdown.
- World Health Organization (WHO): Water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management for COVID-19
- Blog: Virtual In-Service: What it Means and How it Works, NRPA, April 23, 2020
- Blog: Aquatics Programming Goes Digital, NRPA, April 14, 2020
See more resources from NRPA at https://www.nrpa.org/our-work/Three-Pillars/health-wellness/coronavirus-disease-2019/
Again, MTRPA is sending out a big THANK YOU to our state, federal, and local Montana parks and recreation departments and agencies for quickly adapting and acting to keep our public healthy and mentally sane during the COVID-19 outbreak!
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