Parks – what’s open, what’s not

As Governor Walz’s Executive Order 20-56 went into effect on May 18 to safely reopen Minnesota’s economy and ensure safe non-work activities during Stay Safe MN, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) is beginning to slowly re-open courts, play areas, skateparks and sport fields over the next couple weeks with the expectation that park visitors will follow social distancing guidance outlined in the order.

The government now encourages public outdoor recreational facilities be open for families and children, and directs all individuals using such facilities to follow the Department of Natural Resources’ Outdoor Recreation Guidelines, which were updated May 18, and include the following guidelines for the public:

•     Practice social distancing of at least six feet, except for members of the same family.

•     If it is not possible to maintain social distancing throughout the activity, such as while playing a sport like basketball or volleyball where participants are often in close proximity, then you should only participate in that activity with members of your household.

•     Keep in mind that even activities and sports that are typically thought of as non-contact, such as doubles tennis or pickleball, may require special accommodations to allow for social distancing.

•     Do not gather in groups of more than 10 people.

•     Explore the range of nearby public lands available to you; if you arrive at a park, water access site, or other public recreation land and see that it is busy, choose a different option.

•     Avoid contact with shared amenities like playground equipment, picnic tables, and benches. Assume such equipment has not been sanitized. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer if you do come in contact with shared amenities.

The MPRB urges park visitors to follow the executive order and the outdoor recreation guidelines. MPRB Park Ambassadors will continue to be in neighborhood and regional parks to provide information and encouragement on social distancing practices to park visitors. Park signs will remind visitors to stay six feet apart, avoid team sports, and to wash hands before and after park visits and use hand sanitizer during park visits.

Park Superintendent Al Bangoura says that use of nearby parks is a way of life for most Minneapolis residents, and that’s never been truer than now, when people are seeking respite, fresh air and exercise during this global pandemic.

According to Bangoura, as the State slowly reopens stores and businesses, park athletic courts, play areas, skateparks and sport fields will also slowly reopen. Bangoura urges residents to show grace and respect to their neighbors and those using Minneapolis parks.         

Reopening over the next couple weeks, with the expectation of social distancing, no more than 10 people per amenity, and no team sports:

•     Basketball courts – 100 basketball courts opening across the park system

•     Play areas– 118 play areas located throughout park system

•     Skateparks– six skateparks

•     Sport fields– almost 400 multipurpose fields for soccer, football, baseball and softball

•     Tennis courts – more than 120 tennis courts across the park system

Currently opening or opening soon, some with modifications per Executive Order guidelines:

•     Parks, Trails and Parkways – 180 parks, 51 miles of Grand Round trails, trails throughout neighborhood parks, 21 miles of parkways closed to motorized vehicles and open to pedestrians and cyclists

•     Golf Courses – six golf courses and three driving ranges

•     Dog Parks – seven dog parks

•     Gardens and sanctuaries – 12 floral gardens and two bird sanctuaries

•     Boat/canoe launches and fishing piers –five boat launches, seven canoe launches, and 10 fishing piers

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Editor’s note: According to the Trust for Public Land’s ninth annual ParkScore® index, Minneapolis has the best city park system in the United States! The city pulled slightly ahead of 2019 champion Washington, D.C., largely because of new park acquisitions and strategic expansions. ParkScore data now show that 98 percent of Minneapolis residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, up from 96 percent last year. Minneapolis has held the top spot in four of the past five years. Saint Paul finished third in the country.