Our outdoor spaces, up until 2020, were not designed to distance us physically, or even socially, from one another. Indeed, the intent was essentially the opposite, increase interaction through physical activity and spaces that connected communities and their residents. COVID-19 turned that all on its end, and we are forced to think, at least for the near future, how to enjoy our public spaces while remaining physically distanced at least 6’ from one another. As a global community, we must give strong consideration to crowds, cleanliness, sanitation, and space like never before. As social creatures, it’s easy for people to forget to follow the new guidelines for safety, which can result in serious consequences. Here are a few ways we can help encourage safer use of parks and public spaces.
Use visual cues.
Signage that guides people in what is and isn’t acceptable behavior, lanes marked on sidewalks, circles sprayed in grassy areas, and other markers to help guide distancing are helpful in establishing expectations for safer participation. Even an actual-sized 6’ “ruler” can help people understand the separation that’s needed.
Hand sanitizer stations.
For areas like playgrounds, skate parks, restrooms, dog parks, or other infrastructure, add hand sanitizer stations to help people keep their hands clean after touching shared surfaces.
Add clever “cut out” shapes to help repurpose your site furnishings with correct distancing guidelines, move furnishings where possible, and add new options designed with distancing in mind.
It’s also fun to think of activities that people can do as a group, while still maintaining appropriate physical distancing. Here are a few ideas:
If you have a parking lot, consider activities that bring people together, but within the safety of their vehicle. Drive-in movies, car bingo (the bingo caller is outside, participants mark cards in their car and honk when they get a bingo), “through the window” tic tac toe tournament (tape the grid on the window, one player inside, one outside, use window markers to draw X’s and O’s) and other group activities that offer the natural separation of a vehicle are popular ways to recreate together but apart.
Hold a “Mask”erade dance.
Play music (sound system or DJ) and encourage people to decorate their masks and come to the park to dance, staying a safe distance apart of course!
Long jump, free throw contests, Simon says, and other games that can be played in an open field or court are popular options for fun and friendly distanced competitions.
We’re in awe of our parks and recreation professionals as they work to ensure the essential services that parks provide remain open; parks and outdoor spaces are more important than ever as people seek the peace and restoration that nature and physical activity can provide.