So many people are rushing into Minneapolis’ most popular parks during the coronavirus pandemic that it’s hard for them to give everyone their recommended 6-foot separation.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is now urging people to visit smaller neighborhood parks or other regional parks instead, and will potentially take other measures to keep people spread apart.
The activity on some parks in recent days was reminiscent of what is seen during a busy weekend in July, parks spokeswoman Dawn Sommers said Monday. Many crowded the city’s well-known destinations, she said, including the Chain of Lakes and Minnehaha Regional Park.
“Apparently they’re packed with people on the trails,” she said. “There are so many people out on them that people aren’t self social distancing.”
The Park Board is making signs to urge people to practice social distancing, Sommers said. Workers may also be at parks reminding people to do the same, Park Board President Jono Cowgill said.
The Park Board is discussing whether it should close off parkways to vehicles, a tactic being demanded by some on social media.
“The end goal is to provide more space so that people can safely walk or bike or run in our parks space without being right next to somebody else,” Cowgill said.
The Park Board has not decided to do so yet; staff are focused on other priorities, commissioners said. There are also concerns about how such closures would affect traffic and emergency vehicles, Sommers said.
But if restrictions last throughout the spring and more people are told to work from home, it’s likely that recreation will be the main use of the parkways, Cowgill said. He mentioned a section of parkway that was closed to vehicles because of construction near the Stone Arch Bridge last year as an example of how it could be accomplished.
The state Department of Health and other agencies recommend people stay at least 6 feet apart in public.
That has proved difficult in outdoor spaces around the nation, with reports of people flocking to beaches and other tourist spots. Some national parks have closed visitor centers or shut down entirely.
The Minneapolis Park Board has closed its recreation centers, ice arenas, the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and the Carl W. Kroening Interpretive Center through April 5. The risk of exposure to coronavirus from playground equipment is thought to be low, according to the Park Board, which recommends users wash their hands and keep away from the equipment if they show symptoms.
State officials have not recommended closing parks and trails, Sommers said.
“We want our parks to be spaces that continue to be used ... and are spaces that people can have some exercise and respite from being in their homes, especially if this continues for a longer period of time,” Cowgill said.