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Like schools, churches and businesses, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, local parks officials also had to close their facilities, but after several months of precautions, Forsyth County parks are now headed to the final phases of reopening.
Since closures began in March, officials with the Forsyth County Parks and Recreation Department have worked to balance the reopening of parks and activities with keeping the public safe by opening facilities in phases, starting with only allowing the public into green spaces and soon moving to reopening classes at recreation centers and other activities.
“We are currently in the final phases of reopening,” said Laura Pate, deputy director of administration and recreation for the parks department. “Summer camps and athletic activities resumed with limitations on June 15. On July 1, we plan to resume recreation center classes and activities and expand the recreation centers’ hours. There will continue to be limitations based on the governor’s orders.”
Along with classes and activities starting on Wednesday, July 1, the recreation center hours will also be changed to 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.
“We plan to re-open on Sundays in August,” Pate said. “We will continue following the Governor’s orders and county protocol. We will also continue increased cleaning schedules, continue educating residents about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and continue screening employees and participants, as necessary. “
With the mid-March closures, all indoor facilities were closed and team and group activities were canceled, with the closure of playgrounds, fields, courts, pavilions and bathrooms following soon after.
Several parks facilities, including athletic fields, tennis courts, outdoor basketball courts and picnic pavilions reopened on Friday, May 1 and dog parks at Caney Creek Preserve and Windermere and Fowler parks and the skate park at Fowler reopened a few weeks after. Recreation centers reopened on June 1.
Signage has also been placed in parks to educate the public about the virus and encourage social distancing, and Pate said the department will continue measures to keep the parks clean and residents safe.
“Throughout the phased re-opening we have increased the sanitation and disinfecting schedule in all facilities,” she said. “We are currently screening all employees, limiting meeting room capacities and requiring employees to wear face coverings in public indoor spaces. We are also screening camp participants and recreation center members prior to allowing access to the facilities.
“We continue to follow county and state guidelines as we progress through the re-opening process. We have also continued to communicate closures, updates and changes to the community via media releases, social media and emails.”
Pate said the community has largely been understanding through reopening and many have gotten back to enjoying their favorite activities.
“The reactions have been mostly positive,” Pate said. “Since we kept the outdoor trails and green spaces open throughout the pandemic, residents were still able to use and enjoy these areas. Many of these areas became essential to the community while other things were closed. We have seen an increase in families having picnics, flying kites, walking and biking in the parks. As we re-open facilities and programs the participation is steady and continues to increase.”