As Governor Walz’s stay at home order is extended through mid-May, and the need for social distancing continues, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) is urging park users to comply with social distancing in Minneapolis parks.
“From the beginning, we have been following the guidelines of state and city public health officials,” explained Superintendent Al Bangoura. “Despite our efforts, we continue to see park users not following social distancing guidelines. Locally and across the country, urban and suburban park agencies have had to close playgrounds, trails, athletic courts and athletic fields to the public, and we would really like to avoid having to do so.”
The MPRB has taken efforts to encourage park visitors to stay six feet apart. It’s opened five parkways to pedestrians and deployed approximately 1,500 multi-language signs at parks, trails, playgrounds, courts and fields encouraging park users to protect themselves and others through social distancing.
On April 11, the MPRB launched an ambassador program to provide information and encouragement on social distancing practices in neighborhood and regional parks. Visit minneapolisparks.org/coronavirus or sign up to receive email updates at minneapolisparks.org/subscribe by selecting “COVID-19” in the “News Updates” section.
MPRB Vice President LaTrisha Vetaw, who works in public health policy and advocacy, voiced her concern that as an African American she is alarmed by the fact that black people are dying disproportionately across the country from COVID-19. She is urging community members to protect themselves and others in their household.
“Parks are such an important community asset—especially to those without a lot of resources. I completely understand the desire to meet your friends at the park for a game of basketball or soccer. However, doing so puts you and your family at risk. I am concerned by the number of young people I see congregating at parks in my neighborhood on the Northside. Black and brown communities are at a higher risk of severe complications from COVID. Many of us live in multi-generational households. The young people I see at the park might not get sick themselves, but they might bring the virus home with them and infect their aunties and grandmas. So, please, follow social distancing guidelines. Use the parks but use them responsibly to protect your loved ones,” explained Vetaw.
The Minneapolis Health Department recommendations include promoting specific guidelines distinguishing between allowable and unallowable activities. The recommendations also include discouraging or prohibiting games that intrinsically result in close contact between participants.
As a result, the MPRB has new signs urging tennis players, playground users, and basketball players to “do their part” to keep nets on, playgrounds open and rims on. Signage includes guidelines for what is allowed and not allowed.
• At playgrounds, only one household using the playground structure at a time, with time limited to give others a turn is allowed; more than one household of children using the playground equipment at the same time is not allowed.
• At tennis courts, only one person on each side of net is allowed; playing doubles or hitting with more than one person on each side of the net is not allowed.
• At basketball courts, shooting hoops alone or with members of the same household is allowed; playing basketball games or shooting hoops with other people not in the same household is not allowed.
Signs warn that non-compliance will result in tennis net removal, playground closures and basketball rim removal. For the MPRB, non-compliance will result in closures, additional use restrictions and/or removals throughout the park system in the coming weeks if social distancing is not being followed.
Park ambassadors will soon be providing information and encouragement on social distancing practices to park visitors using athletic fields, courts, trails, hammocks, and as the weather warms, picnic areas too. When the Governor’s stay at home order ends May 4 and golf courses can open, golfers will be encouraged to walk or stand at least six feet apart and once golf carts are available, only one golfer will be allowed per cart.
Note: The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) recently announced some summer cancelations and closures, but they may change depending on changes to the COVID-19 pandemic guidelines. Visit minnepaolisparks.org for updates.