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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

10 Ways to Be Safe and Responsible When Visiting Parks During a Pandemic

Photo by Tama66 (pixabay)

We are all adjusting to a "new normal". Kids are attending school at the dining room table and the day to day rhythms of our lives are altered. Most people's lives are suddenly more constricted than ever before. Movie theaters are closed, restaurants have moved to take out only, and everyone, save essential employees, is home. And on top of everything else, spring is here for most of the United States. It seems like the perfect time to spend some time at the park. But is it? The situation is very fluid, and differs in different parts of the country. However, with some safety tips in mind, your family can enjoy some outside time.

1. Give others a 6-foot radius while outdoors.

Social Distancing is the new word of 2020. The most important tip? Stay away from other people. COVID-19 particles are airborne (meaning it spreads through the air). The new recommendation is to wear masks when outside, but staying away from other people is still the best way to avoid contracting the illness.

2. Make sure you check websites and do your research before visiting a park to make sure it is open and to see if there are any specific regulations.

What's open where doesn't just vary from state to state, but in some states, it varies from county to county or city to city. Some municipalities have closed some parks while leaving others open. Most localities are updating their websites regularly to reflect what parks or trails are open in their district. If you aren't sure, call your local parks office.

National Parks Website

3. Keep your hands to yourself whenever possible. Wash them frequently.

If you have gloves, it's a good idea for you and your kids to wear them while out. However, even with gloves on its important to maintain good habits like not touching handrails and keeping your hands away from your face. Hand sanitizer is great, but washing your hands is even better. Bring water and hand soap to the park with you so you can wash your hands regularly.

CDC Handwashing Information

4. If a trail seems too crowded, find a different, less popular trail to minimize density.

The most important thing you can do is to stay away from other people. Stay away from trails that were packed on a normal spring Saturday, and instead head out towards less popular parks and trails. Even then, be aware of how many cars are in the parking area and how many people are milling about. If the park you chose is crowded, head to another place.

Keeping Distances on Trails

5. Avoid Touching Other People's Pets

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that animals can't spread the disease to humans. However, their fur acts as a surface. If an infected person recently touched the pet, it could transfer to you if you then touch the animal. It's also important to keep your pets away from other humans and pets. This is a great time to teach your pets to respect personal space on trails as they should anyway!

6. Choose low-risk recreation to avoid injury.

Hospitals, rescuers, and law enforcement are overwhelmed as it is, and the last thing need is to have to patch you up from an injury, or have to devote resources to looking for lost hikers or kayakers. Stay safe!

7. Stay Close to Home

Many popular recreation areas are asking people from other areas not to travel to their locale. As tempting as a quick jaunt to the beach or a trip to hike up your favorite mountain seems, resist! This is the time to stay close to home and enjoy your own area.

8. Bring Everything You Need

A great to avoid others is to bring absolutely everything you need with you. Snacks, water, sunscreen, a first aid kit, a picnic what your family needs to safely enjoy some time outside.

9. Change Your Clothes

Lots of people ask that you not wear shoes inside their homes. Now we should all embrace this ethos! Shoes worn outside should not be worn around the house. It's also a good idea to change everyone's clothes immediately when returning from being out in the world. Naturally, a good hand scrubbing is needed as soon as you get home.

10. Avoid Park Playgrounds

Remember, the name of the game for a safe park experience during a pandemic is to stay away from others. Most park departments have already closed playgrounds, but even if they haven't you'll want to stay away. A great alternative? Contact local outdoor play equipment companies and stores and see if they can construct the playground of your kid's dreams in the safety of your own backyard.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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