Over the past couple of weeks, we have started to enjoy a bit more freedom in our neighbourhood parks when some of the regulations were relaxed – giving you and your family the ability to enjoy activity and time outdoors. But when using our parks, we must remain mindful and respectful of others – to protect your well-being and the health and safety of your friends, neighbours and family.
In this stage of the pandemic, one of our best lines of defence is practicing physical distancing – keeping a minimum two metres away from those who are outside our immediate household – washing your hands regularly and avoiding touching your face.
This is the reason why the Province still prohibits gatherings of more than five people. This is also why the use of some park amenities, like sports fields and courts, comes with limitations. Other amenities, like play equipment and splash pads, continue to be prohibited entirely.
Over the past week, we have seen pictures from many Canadian and American beaches and parks where people have responded to the relaxed restrictions with reckless abandon – ignoring physical distancing measures.
With a virus that has an exponential contagion rate, this type of behaviour can have a rippling effect, with each individual jeopardizing not only their well-being, but the health of every contact they have – especially those who are vulnerable. This type of behaviour can halt any positive movement towards lifting more social and economic restrictions that are currently in place.
Here is simple park-use etiquette that will ensure a safe and healthy park experience for everyone.
Casual use of sports fields and basketball courts
Sports fields and basketball courts are now open for casual use only. That means you can toss or kick a ball around or practice throwing hoops with members of your household. The gathering restrictions makes any organized team or group play prohibited.
You can play tennis, as the game allows for physical distancing. Touch football, soccer or even three-on-three basketball cannot be played without compromising physical distancing.
In addition to physical distancing, Ottawa Public Health continues to advise that limiting activities to members of your own household remains important to limit the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.
Maintain physical distancing while at the park and beaches
Whether you are sitting at a picnic table, bench, or on your own blanket or pop-up chair, be sure to respect a two-metre distance from people outside your household. So, if you see a person on a bench, don’t sit beside them, and don’t put your chair or blanket close to another person.
Even when you’re jogging, using your mobility device while walking, or taking your dog for a stroll, be sure to keep proper physical distancing from others by stepping or veering off to the side.
Maintain proper hygiene practices while at the park and after at home
Park benches, picnic tables and even the ball that you’re tossing around are surfaces that are touched by multiple people. So, when you’re at the park, avoid touching your face – mouth, nose and even your eyes. Also, avoid touching other people’s sport equipment and belongings such as racquets, bags, chairs or umbrellas.
Always make washing your hands a key practice. If you don’t have soap and water nearby, use hand sanitizers or sanitizer wipes.
Clean up after yourself at the park
Being smart and respectful also applies to keeping the park environment clean for others to enjoy.
With the pandemic, the park maintenance activities are not in normal operations capacity for regular garbage pick-up. When you are at the park, and you have garbage or dog waste please take it home for proper disposal.
Stay off prohibited amenities – swings, play structures and exercise equipment
Even though the Province has relaxed some restrictions, swings, slides, play structures, splash pads, wading pools, and exercise equipment remain closed and prohibited for use.
The reason why these amenities remain closed is two-fold. They are high-touch surfaces that are not cleaned regularly and COVID-19 can survive on surfaces for various periods of time. Also, play and exercise equipment tend to attract multiple users making it difficult to maintain safe physical distancing – especially among children.
It is important for our mental and physical well-being to get outside and enjoy our neighbourhood parks. But let’s do it by remaining smart, mindful and respectful of others. We need to remain vigilant and practice safe distancing. Stay safe. Stay healthy. We are all in this together.