BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Western New Yorkers who are getting stir-crazy in their homes in this age of isolation are finding respite in local parks, but parks officials are reminding everyone new regulations are in place to keep everyone safe as we face the threat of COVID-19.
Among the new policies, basketball courts, playgrounds, and fitness equipment are off limits. All parks in the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy’s system are open, but only for passive use.
“It’s the difference between parks and recreation,” explained Stephanie Crockatt, Executive Director of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy. “So we’re asking people just to focus on the parks part of parks and recreation, which means try to stay away from the active areas, no playgrounds, no courts, no fields where there would be group congregation.”
Social distancing is key.
All buildings, including restrooms, are closed until at least April 1, when the situation will be reassessed. Organized sports, festivals, and gatherings of more than ten people are also prohibited until at least April 1.
The golf season was scheduled to begin April 25, and turf maintenance is on track, but Conservancy leaders says it’s unclear what will happen with that. There are many logistical challenges involved in having people reserve tee-times and maintaining proper social distancing on the course. The Conservancy is working to sort through all of the potential issues before making a decision about whether golfing will be allowed.
But, while there are several restrictions in place, park users are still encouraged to enjoy activities like walking, biking, and jogging, while remaining six feet apart.
Crockatt says this is a great time for Western New Yorkers to take an audio tour of one of the parks. The tours are available for listening on your mobile device or computer through the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy website, bfloparks.org
It’s also a great time to remember what it means to be a good neighbor, with park usage up 30 percent right now.
“We’re also seeing 30 percent more dogs, 30 percent more trash,” Crockatt pointed out. “So we’re asking people to please be a little neighborly when you’re in the parks, keep your dogs on leash, pick up after your pets.”
Of course, you should also pick up after yourself. Totes are being emptied as usual, but those who do not want to touch the trash receptacles can always bring their garbage home with them.
“We know a lot of people don’t want to touch a whole lot of things. We’re trying to come up with some other ideas, but for now, please help us pick up the trash,” Crockatt said, adding that you can use a wipe to open a tote or your trash itself.
Olmsted Parks Conservancy crews are working hard to complete maintenance projects around the parks. That work is that much harder now, since the Conservancy cannot have volunteers helping at this point. The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy relies heavily on volunteers and donations to operate.
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“The parks right now are the outlet,” Crockatt said. “They’re helping us with our physical activity, even just our mental activity.”
“When [Frederick Law] Olmsted designed these parks, he designed them for respite,” she added.
The goal of the COVID-19 regulations is to make sure everyone can enjoy the Olmsted Parks Conservancy’s 850 acres of parks, parkways, and circles together – while staying safe and apart.