As park and recreation professionals work towards a path to recovery from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, it is essential to take a thoughtful and methodical approach to reinstating operations that protects public health and safety. This section of the Path to Recovery Framework includes guidance on creating and implementing a communications plan.

Communications Planning

Communicating the operational and policy changes impacting park and recreation infrastructure and programming in your community in a clear and timely manner is essential to ensuring that people are utilizing and benefiting from these spaces and programs safely. The updates to your operations and policies need to be communicated often across the many communication outlets you have.

In addition to providing clear and concise information about the current status of your parks, facilities and programs, outreach to your community should also reinforce the essential services you provide and the critical role of park and recreation professionals in maintaining and managing these spaces.

Key Things to Think About in Your Communications Plan

  • Identify your key audiences. Who needs to know about the information you are sharing? Your key audiences likely include staff, your regular customers, the general public, the press and more. Each audience will need different messaging and ways of delivering that message.
  • Deliver messages and updates in a timely manner and decide how often each audience needs to hear from you. Your community leaders and staff may need a daily or weekly update depending on the number of COVID-19 response activities you are handling. Community leaders and staff should also be informed of any announcement before it goes to the public. When communicating to your customers and the general public, repetition is key. You can’t share a message once and expect that everyone received it. Many messages will need to be shared often across every communications channel you have in order to effectively reach as many people as possible.
  • Identify which staff are responsible for which audiences and messages. Assign staff to various audiences. The director may be in charge of all staff communication while a program manager is responsible for sending emails to customers. If you have a dedicated communications team, utilize them to help disseminate your message.
  • Decide which communication tools you will use. Likely, you will need to use every communications channel you have, but use the right ones for the right messages. Posting about playground closings via a social media channel will not be enough. This message will need to be reinforced by press outreach, website updates, physical signs and more. Consistently deliver messages to your key audiences in the same way — don’t deliver all key updates via email to your staff and then switch to another method. Keep it consistent.
  • Have a repository for all of your information. Every official communication or guidance piece that is shared by your department should have a permanent home somewhere. Ideally, for public communications, this would be your website. This way, if a member of the public is proactively seeking information about using your parks and facilities, they can find everything they need to know in one spot. This allows you to share shortened versions of key communications via email or social media because you can link back to the full resource on your website.
  • Clearly communicate what the expectations are of people visiting your parks and facilities. Part 5 of NRPA’s Path to Recovery framework provides a sample outline of what needs to happen to move from phase to phase as well as things to consider in each phase. Each phase has mitigation and personal protective measures that will need to be communicated to the public. If space allows, explain why these measures are in place or link back to a resource that does so.
  • Update participation waivers. Communities should consider adding language to participation waivers regarding the contagious nature of COVID-19 and the risks involved with participation. Any waiver updates should be reviewed to ensure legality.
  • Work with other local jurisdictions to align your messages. Many communities have parks run by city, county and state agencies all in a regional area or trails that run from one jurisdiction into the next. Be sure to reach out to the leaders of other park and recreation agencies to see if you can communicate about closures, activities, restrictions and mitigation measures in a similar way. Aligning your messages will reduce confusion among community members, discourage community members from traveling to nearby agencies who may have differing messages, and simplify your messaging while expanding the reach of that messaging.
  • Work with public health and communication officials to review and refine your messages. Your department will be following the lead and advice of the local health officials, so reach out and request their assistance with reviewing public-facing messages to ensure that you have appropriately captured current guidance. You should also make sure your messaging is using the proper terms for the disease and not perpetuating any stereotypes or stigma around the disease.
  • Have a communication plan in place in case you need to return to an earlier phase or restart certain mitigation measures. The risk of a second wave is very real. Should case numbers start rising again in your community, have a plan in place to communicate what this means for your staff, community members and other key audiences.

Community Awareness and Community Education

A key part of the reopening process is centered on community members understanding and abiding by public health guidance. As a trusted establishment in your community, you likely have unique ways to communicate with your key audiences and members of the general public. This gives you an opportunity to not only share your own messages, but to share PSAs and important messages from local, state and federal health officials.

  • Use your unique communication channels such as loudspeakers, electronic signs, bulletin boards, outdoor banners, scoreboards and more to share important messages.
  • Utilize existing content and resources. The CDC and NRPA have created many resources that can help explain things like physical distancing, face coverings and hand washing.
    • This CDC Social Media Toolkit contains sample messages and graphics that can be copied and pasted into various social media networks.
    • NRPA has created a series of infographics that can be printed or used online. These include tips about physical distancing and how to use parks safely.
    • Work with the press. Your local press has the same goal as you — to educate the public about critical updates in your community, including the safe use of park and recreation infrastructure. Send all of your updates to your local press. You could also reach out to see what types of stories and resources they are specifically looking for and work together on stories most important to the community.

Sample Communications

Below are sample website and email blurbs as well as social media posts that you can tailor to help disseminate important information about your operations, policies, parks and facilities. These examples are grouped by the phases laid out in NRPA’s Phased Reopening Planning. Please note, you must tailor these to be accurate to the current policies and orders in your community.

In all of these examples, we recommend linking back to public health policies and official state guidance where appropriate in addition to keeping your website assets as up-to-date as possible. When updating information on your website always include the date that it was last updated so people know they are getting the most updated information.

Stay-at-Home or Phase 0

Website/Email Blurb

[Community] is currently under a [stay-at-home/shelter-in-place] order. We know you are anxious to get back to your favorite park. Please know the following before you go:

  • Only visit parks you can walk to. Parking lots are currently closed.
  • Check our website for an updated list of open parks and amenities as well as hours of operation.
  • Bring your own water and plan for restrooms to be closed.
  • Do not go to the park if you are feeling ill or have been potentially exposed to COVID-19.
  • Wear a face covering while in the park and on trails.
  • Maintain a physical distance of at least 6 feet from other park visitors outside your household.
  • Please leave the park if it becomes too crowded.

It is essential that we work together and follow the rules so that we can all enjoy our community’s parks and open spaces. Our park and recreation staff are working hard to provide these critical services to you at this time. If you see a staff member, consider saying thank you from a safe physical distance. For a full list of the mitigation measures we are conducting, please visit: [webpage].

For detailed information about our policies, hours and available resources — such as [virtual exercise classes, food pick-up, testing sites, youth activity guides and more] — please visit: [webpage]

Social Media

  • [Community] is currently under a [stay-at-home/shelter-in-place] order. Please check our website for an updated list of which parks are open and the public health measures you need to take before visiting.
  • We have to work together to keep our parks open! Follow these rules while visiting our parks and open spaces. [Share NRPA’s Infographic and link to list of local rules]
  • Our recreation centers may be closed, but we are still offering the following services: virtual exercise classes, food pick-up, youth activity guides and more. Visit our website for a full list of available resources: [webpage]
  • Our park and recreation staff are working hard to provide these critical services to you at this time. If you see a staff member, consider saying thank you from a safe physical distance. 😊 #ThankAParkandRecPro

Phase 1

Website/Email Blurb

[Community] has met the requirements to move into Phase 1 of reopening. This means that more of our parks are open and we have reopened some amenities. Before you visit a park, please visit our website for a full list of what is open and closed as well as the policies that must be followed while visiting. Keep in mind that the following are still closed:

  • Playgrounds
  • Splash pads
  • Swimming pools
  • Recreation/senior centers
  • Athletic fields/complexes
  • Outdoor exercise equipment
  • Skate parks

While visiting our parks, remember to stay home if you are sick, bring a face covering and keep a physical distance of at least 6 feet from other park visitors outside of your household.

It is essential that we work together and follow the rules so that we can all enjoy our community’s parks and open spaces. Our park and recreation staff are working hard to provide these critical services to you as safely as possible. If you see a staff member, consider saying thank you from a safe physical distance. For a full list of the mitigation measures we are conducting, please visit: [webpage].

For detailed information about our policies, hours and available resources — such as [virtual exercise classes, food pick-up, testing sites, youth activity guides and more] — please visit: [webpage]

Social Media

  • We are excited that we have been able to reopen some of our parks! Please know the policies before you visit. Stay home if you are sick, wear a face covering, no gatherings of more than 10 people, and keep a physical distance of at least 6 feet from other park visitors. See our full list of hours, operations and policies here: [website link]
  • We have to work together to keep our parks open! Follow these rules while visiting our parks and open spaces. [Share NRPA’s Infographic and link to list of local rules]
  • Our recreation centers may be closed, but we are still offering the following services: virtual exercise classes, food pick-up, youth activity guides and more. Visit our website for a full list of available resources.
  • Our park and recreation staff are working hard to provide these critical services to you at this time. If you see a staff member, consider saying thank you from a safe physical distance. 😊 #ThankAParkandRecPro

 

Phase 2

Website/Email

[Community] has met the requirements to move into Phase 2 of reopening. This means that more of our facilities are open and some small group activities are allowed. Before you visit a park or facility, please visit our website for a full list of what is open and closed as well as the policies that must be followed while visiting. Keep in mind that the following are still closed:

  • Playgrounds
  • Splashpads
  • Skate parks
  • Outdoor exercise equipment

We are now offering [individual programmatic offerings and facility openings] with the following public health measures in place [Include information about what is available and what mitigation measures are being implemented].

Please note that large gatherings are still banned throughout our parks and facilities and we are still asking visitors to continue wearing face coverings and maintain a physical distance of at least 6 feet from other visitors outside their household.

We will continue to offer virtual recreation programs online. You can see our full list of offerings here: [webpage]

Our park and recreation staff are working hard to provide these critical services to you as safely as possible. If you see a staff member, consider saying thank you from a safe physical distance. For a full list of the mitigation measures we are conducting, please visit: [webpage].

Social Media

  • We are excited to provide expanded offerings to our community! Please know the policies before you visit any parks or facilities. Stay home if you are sick, wear a face covering and keep a physical distance of at least 6 feet from other visitors. See our full list of hours, operations and policies here: [website link]
  • Our recreation centers are now offering [insert updated offerings]. Visit our website for a full list of available offerings as well as mitigation measures that must be met prior and during your visit: [website link]
  • Our park and recreation staff are working hard to provide these critical services to you at this time. If you see a staff member, consider saying thank you from a safe physical distance. 😊 #ThankAParkandRecPro

 

Phase 3

Website/Email

[Community] has met the requirements to move into Phase 3 of reopening. This means that most of our facilities and programs have been able to reopen, but only with enhanced public health and safety measures. Please note that keeping a physical distance of at least 6 feet from other visitors is still critically important and that large group gatherings are still banned.

Before you visit a park or facility, please visit our website for a full list of the public health measures that must be followed: [webpage]

Our park and recreation staff are working hard to provide these critical services to you as safely as possible. If you see a staff member, consider saying thank you from a safe physical distance. For a full list of the mitigation measures we are conducting, please visit: [webpage].

For detailed information about our policies, hours and available resources — such as virtual exercise classes, [add in details specific to your agency] — please visit: [webpage]

Social Media

  • We are excited to provide expanded offerings to our community! Please know the policies before you visit any parks or facilities. Stay home if you are sick and keep a physical distance of at least 6 feet from other visitors. See our full list of hours, operations and policies here: [website link]
  • Our recreation centers are now offering [insert updated offerings]. Visit our website for a full list of available offerings as well as mitigation measures that must be met prior and during your visit: [website link]
  • Our park and recreation staff are working hard to provide these critical services to you at this time. If you see a staff member, consider saying thank you from a safe physical distance. 😊 #ThankAParkandRecPro

Reverting Back to a Previous Phase

Website/Email

[Community] has unfortunately seen a rise in the number of positive COVID-19 cases [and/or other key indicators] and must reinstate [Phase X] protocol. This means that the following policies have been put in place:

  • [List policies]

We know this is difficult to hear, but by working together we can once again move past this phase to allow more access to our parks, facilities and programs.

To ensure we are still delivering on our critical services, we are providing the following:

  • [List services being provided such as testing sites, food nutrition programs, virtual recreation programs, etc]

Our park and recreation staff are working hard to provide these critical services to you as safely as possible. If you see a staff member, consider saying thank you from a safe physical distance. For a full list of the mitigation measures we are conducting, please visit: [webpage]

For detailed information, please visit: [webpage]

Social Media

  • [Community] has unfortunately seen a rise in the number of positive COVID-19 cases [and/or other key indicators] and must reinstate [Phase X] protocol. This means that [X, Y, Z] policies are now in place. Please visit our website for a full list of what is open, what is closed and what services we are continuing to provide: [webpage]
  • Our park and recreation staff are working hard to provide these critical services to you at this time. If you see a staff member, consider saying thank you from a safe physical distance. 😊 #ThankAParkandRecPro

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