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 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:
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.
We have gathered some resources for you and your staff to reference. Please share with anyone.
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.
Download NRPA infographic at: https://www.nrpa.org/contentassets/991084e170d241c29d4ca93ee3b04bbe/covid19-urban-parks-hi-res-web.jpg
See more resources from NRPA at https://www.nrpa.org/our-work/Three-Pillars/health-wellness/coronavirus-disease-2019/