Social distancing while battling the coronavirus doesn’t have to mean holing up and not seeing sunlight for four months or longer.
As long as it’s done in a responsible manner — including not being in with a crowd of more than 10 people and maintaining some distance — it can be OK to enjoy the outdoors.
All Athens Parks and Recreation park facilities are currently open with the exception of the playgrounds and the Athens Regional Park conference center. The recommendation for no more than 10 in a group are part of guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and most of the country is following those guidelines. The recreation department is also not taking reservations for any city facilties.
“We have put reminder signs at all the parks that say 10 or less in a group,” Fesmire said. “When people go to the parks, the area are closed have this area closed signs up. Those would be the playgrounds.”
One change that park visitors will see, however, is that the park tables typically placed under pavilions are not spread out over the parks. That is to promote social distancing and preventing crowds of more than 10 from gathering.
“I directed the maintenance staff to take all of the tables that are under all our pavilions and scatter those throughout the parks,” Athens Parks and Recreation Director Austin Fesmire said. “That would meet the social distancing (guidelines). So what people will find different is that the tables will be scattered throughout the park.
“What we were finding was that with all the tables bunched under a pavilion was that people were unintentionally bypassing the 10-person limit. So the tables normally seat eight and they were separated out. That seems very popular and working.”
Parks and Recreation employees are being instructed to break up parties of more than 10 people.
Once the park staff saw what was happening in terms of groups gathering at the tables, the change was made. The parks workers have been directed to not allow groups of more than 10 people from gathering and Fesmire wants to know the employees are simply doing what they have been instructed to do.
“We watched what was happening and attacked it on that basis of what people were doing,” Fesmire said. “So far everybody has been very nice and understanding of why we are doing what we are doing. If some of our employees walk up to a group of more than 10 and ask you to break the group up we want people to know they are doing their job. They are not just wanting to irritate people, they are just asking you to comply with the rules.”
Because of the guidelines dealing with groups of people gathering, the opening of the city pool will likely be delayed. Ingleside Pool, the city-operated pool, usually opens the day after school is out for the summer. The school schedule is now unknown and there is still the issue of having groups of people gathered so the opening date of the pool is not certain at this point.
“In today’s world things are changing daily and we will follow the guidelines that are sent to us,” Fesmire said. “We will follow the guidelines that are given to us by the CDC and the city manager. We are all meeting daily and updating on what is happening out in our facilities.”