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Community Enforcement Of Social Distancing Encouraged At Fort Wayne Parks

Rebecca Green/WBOI News

With stay-at-home orders still in effect in northeast Indiana and the rest of the Hoosier State, local and state parks are trying to find the best ways to maintain social distancing as the weather gets warmer.

Last week, Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation announced indefinite closure of many of its facilities. Athletic courts, youth and community centers, the Botanical Conservatory and golf courses have all been closed indefinitely amid the coronavirus pandemic.

General park grounds and trails for all 87 Fort Wayne parks, along with Camp Canine and Pawster Park dog parks, currently remain open.

But it is springtime, and people like going outside in nice weather to do certain things, like see the tulips in Foster Park. And in a time where residents have been confined to their homes, gathering at a park might be an attractive idea.

Parks and recreation director Steve McDaniel says enforcement of closures will be a community effort. He still encourages residents to visit park grounds if they would like to -- so long as they practice CDC guidelines and respect the health and safety of others.

“If you are in a park and another group is walking towards you, step away so you’ve got that distance the CDC and Allen County Board of Health recommend for distancing," McDaniel said. "So basically we’re asking our citizens to participate in that and be part of the decision making of what is social distancing and how do we act in our parks.”

While it’s impossible to predict what things will look like in the coming weeks and months, some projections suggest another wave of the coronavirus may hit the United States in the fall.

McDaniel says it’s a guessing game at this point what the best course of action will be, adding that uncertainty has become part of the department’s current planning.

“The unknown is, we just don’t know what it’s going to be, so it’s hard for us to try to figure out all the different scenarios, but the staff has been working on multiple scenarios just to try to determine that if something comes back from the CDC or the board of health, that we know what to react to and we’ll go to that plan,” he said.

McDaniel assures residents that once the region returns to a place of normalcy, whatever it may look like, the parks will be there for them.

“We think that parks provide that great release from all the weariness about what’s going on in our community and that’s why parks are here, is to help that enjoyment and the other part of life, as I see it.”

He also reminded residents that if you can wear a mask at the store, you can wear one at the parks, too.

Zach joined 89.1 WBOI as a reporter and local host for All Things Considered. He currently hosts Morning Edition.