Have you developed a deeper appreciation for your local park during the pandemic? Close-to-home parks and trails are crucial to a community’s quality of life, and 2020 has certainly made that evident.
More people have turned to Plano’s parks and open spaces like never before in search of fresh air, exercise and a sense of a peace. And access to these areas matter now more than ever.
We are all having to learn new ways to maintain our physical, social, mental and emotional health, and Plano Parks and Recreation is here to help our community do just that.
According to recent Trust for Public Land’s “Parks and the Pandemic” special report, “During this period of quarantine, parks and public land are seeing some of the highest usage in modern times. Parks are proving to be an essential part of how we cope and recover from this crisis.”
Spending time outdoors is critical for one’s health and wellness for its ability to reduce anxiety, stress and depression, as well as improve one’s physical health. Time spent in nature can also help shake off the malaise associated with the stay-at-home advisories that have sprung up around the country.
Here in Plano, our trails have collectively seen a 50 percent increase in usage from March through September. Parks and recreation staff quickly responded by developing a park monitoring program to insure social distancing guidelines were being followed in our parks and trails. Education campaigns about trail etiquette and social distancing were also crucial for this community-wide effort to keep Plano’s parks and trails open.
“Keeping the Plano park system and open space amenities available to the community continues to be a priority,” Park Services Manager Dave Angeles said. “These challenging times have highlighted the critical role that Parks field staff play in providing a maintained and inviting open space park system for Plano residents.”
Parks and recreation professionals all across the country have had to think creatively to balance providing access while managing public safety. Recreation centers reopened with limited capacity, protective equipment, and guidelines for protecting the health of patrons and staff. The quick transition among recreation staff from in-person to online programming also required a whole new level of coordination among them and their instructors. Today, Plano Parks and Recreation offers a variety of in-person and online classes, allowing our department to engage with residents in unique and meaningful ways.
“The pandemic definitely affected the public’s ability to exercise, learn, socialize, and stay fit. No longer was it possible to hit the gym for a quick workout, go to a dance class, or catch up with friends at the recreation center. We knew we had to respond and provide opportunities where we could," Recreation Services Manager Susie Hergenrader said. “Our employees immediately stepped out of their comfort zone into the world of online programming. In subsequent months, we have been able to slowly reopen a variety of recreation facilities, amenities and programs, albeit with new restrictions.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasizes that people should stay home if they are feeling sick or were recently exposed to the novel coronavirus. If you do venture out, choose a destination close to home since “traveling long distances to visit a park may contribute to the spread of COVID-19.”
In addition, the CDC urges park goers to wash hands frequently with warm soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, encountering high-touch surfaces such as railings and doors, and before eating.
If you’re looking for a cure to cabin fever, get your daily dose of vitamin D in Plano’s parks! Visit planoparks.org for park and trail maps, outdoor recreation opportunities and more. Stay healthy, and thank you for helping us keep our parks and trails safe and open for everyone to enjoy!