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 commonly managed park and recreation spaces, facilities and programs, outlining considerations for reinstating operations.

  • Open or CloseAthletic Fields

    Park and recreation professionals will need to consider several key factors in plans to reopen athletic fields. The primary factor to consider is if the space allows for safe use as outlined in your phased reopening plan – including the need to implement and enforce additional mitigation strategies (physical distancing, limiting gatherings, supporting hygiene, etc.) and personal protection measures. Professionals should conduct a thorough risk assessment of each space, facility, program and event prior to reopening.

    Park and recreation professionals should adhere to all state and local public health guidance regarding athletic fields operations and management. In addition, park and recreation professionals should conduct thorough planning prior to reopening, addressing these factors:

    1. Evaluation of your facility and space to better understand the surfaces, materials and risks that are present.

    2. Develop a plan for reopening. Plan should include:

    • Community education and awareness. Ensure that patrons, including other sports organizations, are aware of public health and safety measures, including personal protection and hygiene measures. Disseminate information across a variety of communication channels including signage on site, webpages, social media, PA announcements, etc.

    • Cleaning and disinfection measures for frequently touched surfaces (door handles, sink handles, drinking fountains, restrooms, benches, bleachers) in accordance with CDC’s cleaning and disinfection guidance. Ensure the safe storage and use of disinfectants. With limited capacity, park and recreation professionals could consider identifying and training a volunteer coach or adult to ensure proper cleaning and disinfection.

    • Establishing safety protocols for removal of garbage bags or disposal of trash.

    • Monitoring and enforcing physical distancing in all areas of the facility. Implement environmental controls and modify layouts to support physical distancing and limit person-to-person contact including installing markers, signage, controlling traffic flow, etc.

    • Following all CDC guidelines for concession stands, food preparation and sales and limit person-to-person interactions by implementing touch-free transactions at concessions stands and other entry points.

    • Eliminating equipment sharing (tractors, mowers, field liners, storage lockers, etc.) as much as possible and sanitize all shared equipment after each use according to CDC cleaning and disinfection guidance.

    • Ensuring that all facility users/renters are following the same protocols.

    3. Maintain and revise your plan as needed through recovery phases.

     

    Maintenance of Athletic Fields

    COVID-19 may have impacted the ability of park and recreation professionals to properly maintain fields. Prior to reopening, fields should be assessed, and maintenance should be performed to ensure the health and safety of the public.

    The Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) provides some guidance in their Route to Recovery Guide on proper field maintenance when returning to play.

  • Open or CloseBeaches and Waterfronts

    The CDC has released guidance for public beaches

    Park and recreation professionals will need to consider several key factors as they plan to reopen beaches and waterfronts. The primary factor to consider is if the space allows for safe use as outlined in your phased reopening plan – including the need to implement and enforce additional mitigation strategies (physical distancing, limiting gatherings, supporting hygiene, etc.) and personal protection measures. For example, a public beach or waterfront may provide space for physical distancing and household-unit activities, but if physical distancing cannot be enforced or if the public is not adhering to physical distancing measures, the space may not be able to reopen safely or may need to limit certain types of activities until there is no widespread community transmission of the virus.

    Professionals should conduct a thorough risk assessment of each space and amenity before reopening. NRPA recommends that beaches reopen in a phased approach to allow sufficient time for monitoring, navigating unexpected challenges and ensuring that transmission rates do not increase. Professionals should consider opening beaches for recreational use and household unit use (walking, etc.) before allowing small and larger group gatherings for extended periods of time (sunbathing, etc.).

    Additionally, park and recreation professionals should have plans in place to support the recommendations outlined below when reopening beaches.

    Communications:

    • Post clear signage outlining allowable activities, use and enforcement.

    • Ensure that the public is aware and educated about the public health and safety measures that are in place including limits on certain activities and gatherings, encouraging good hygiene, staying home when sick and wearing face coverings.

    • Have a plan in place to reinstate mitigation measures, including closures if the public is not adhering to recommendations or if transmission increases.

    Physical Distancing and Limiting Gatherings:

    • Have a plan in place for monitoring and enforcement of physical distancing, including limiting capacity on the beach. Strategies to monitor physical distancing and limit capacity may include:

       - Instituting a timed pass system

       - Limiting parking spaces

       - Limiting access points

       - Training and deploying beach ambassadors to educate beachgoers about physical distancing (lifeguards should not be responsible for monitoring physical distancing – they need to focus on water safety)

       - Stationing beach ambassadors at access points

       - Sharing public service announcements over speakers to remind people of physical distancing

       - Using tape or cones to mark 6 ft. intervals in popular areas on boardwalks or at beach access points

       - Limit gatherings as outlined in your phased reopening plans (ex. Phase 1 typically prohibits gatherings larger than 10 people).

    Cleaning, Disinfection and Supporting Hygiene:

    • Support hygiene and public health (e.g. ensure access to wash stations, clean restrooms, hand sanitizer, etc.).

    • Frequently clean and disinfect restrooms and other commonly shared surfaces and spaces around the beach according to CDC guidance (permanent benches, railings, showers, etc.).

    • Ensure all vendors are following cleaning and disinfection guidance.

    Equipment Sharing:

    • Discourage activities that involve equipment sharing outside of the same household.

    • Close off equipment, including playgrounds or outdoor exercise equipment that is difficult to keep clean and disinfected and challenging to monitor physical distancing.

    • Ensure that any shared equipment, including rental items, are cleaned and disinfected between use (chair, umbrella rentals, kayaks, etc.).

    Protecting Staff and Beach Ambassadors:

    • Ensure that staff has the personal protective equipment necessary to do their job safely.

    • Ensure that beach ambassadors are trained in handling difficult situations, know that they can avoid situations that make them uncomfortable, and know when to call for additional support.

  • Open or CloseChildcare Programs and Summer Camps

    Childcare Programs

    CDC has issued guidance for childcare programs including Pre-K, Head Start programs, private and home childcare, and temporary childcare centers operated by municipalities for essential workers. Topics covered include:

    • General preparedness

    • Guidance for childcare centers currently open

    • Social distancing strategies

    • Parent drop-off and pick-up

    • Screening children upon arrival

    • Cleaning and disinfection

    • Caring for infants and toddlers

    • Healthy hand hygiene behavior

    • Food preparation and meal service

    • Vulnerable/high-risk groups

    As park and recreation agencies scale up childcare centers this fall, agencies should consider opportunities to provide additional support to youth, families, and staff. Review the Planning for the Next Normal in Out-of-School Time blog post for guidance on understanding the mental, social, economic and physical impacts of COVID-19 on youth and staff, 

    Summer Camps

    For communities where spread has slowed, CDC has issued official guidance and considerations for summer camp programs. These considerations are outlined to help protect campers, staff and communities, and maintain low levels of the spread of COVID-19. Agencies should still consult with local and state health officials to determine if and how to put these considerations into place.

    Guiding principles shared by CDC outline that the risk of exposure and spread will increases the more people a camper or staff member interacts with and the longer that interaction occurs. The risk of COVID-19 spread increases in youth camp settings as follows:

    • Lowest Risk: Small groups of campers and staff stay together all day, each day. Campers remain at least 6 feet apart and do not share objects. Outdoor activities are prioritized. All campers are from the local geographic area (e.g., city, town, county or community).

    • More Risk: Campers mix between groups but remain at least 6 feet apart and do not share objects. Outdoor activities are prioritized. All campers are from the local geographic area (e.g., community, town, city or county).

    • Even More Risk: Campers mix between groups and do not remain spaced apart. All campers are from the local geographic area (e.g., community, town, city or county).

    • Highest Risk: Campers mix between groups and do not remain spaced apart. All campers are not from the local geographic area (e.g., community, town, city or county).

    Camp administrators should consider implementing several strategies to encourage behaviors and maintain operations that reduce the risk of spread. Detailed guidance is provided by CDC. These strategies include:

    Promoting healthy and protective measures

    • Encouraging campers and staff to stay home when sick.

    • Teaching and reinforcing proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.

    • Teaching and reinforcing the use of cloth face coverings.

    • Ensuring adequate supplies are on hand.

    • Posting reinforcing signs and messages.

    Maintaining healthy environments

    Engage in frequent cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces and shared equipment.

    • Discourage the sharing of items and personal belongings.

    • Ensure proper ventilation.

    • Ensure all water systems and features are safe to use after a prolonged shutdown.

    • Modify layouts to encourage physical distancing.

    • Install physical barriers for added protection.

    • Close shared communal spaces, including playgrounds.

    • Limit the sharing of food and ensure food safety practices are in line with CDC recommendations.

    Maintaining healthy operations

    • Ensure protections for staff and campers who are at higher risk of severe illness.

    • Be aware of local regulatory controls and policies.

    • Identify small groups (cohorts) and keep them together to limit interaction outside of groups.

    • Stagger scheduling, including arrival and drop-off times.

    • Avoid gatherings, visitors and field trips where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

    • Designate a COVID-19 point of contact.

    • Establish and implement a communication plan.

    • Have flexible time off policies for staff and back-up staffing plans.

    • Train all staff on safety protocols, PPE, communications and chain of command.

    • Recognize signs and symptoms and conduct health screenings of campers and staff.

    • Reduce sharing of spaces between groups.

    Prepare for when someone gets sick

    • Advise sick individuals of home isolation criteria.

    • Isolate and transport those who are sick.

    • Clean and disinfect.

    • Notify health officials and close contacts.

    Additionally, the American Camp Association has developed a comprehensive camp operations field guide with more detailed information and NRPA has created a Summer Camp Reopening Decision tool to help support decision-making about reopening.

    Download a Printable Summer Camp Reopening Decision Tool

     

    Example Materials from Agencies 

    • Pinellas County/St. Petersburg Florida: Letter to Staff re: Positive COVID-19 Case

    • Pinellas County/St. Petersburg, Florida: Letter to Parents re: Postive COVID-19 Case

    • St. Petersburg, Florida Parks and Recreation: COVID-19 Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendation

    • Tampa, Florida: COVID-19 Waiver

    • Tampa, Florida: COVID-19 Health and Temperature Screening Form

    • Tampa Florida: COVID-19 2020 Summer Camp Parent Guide

    San Francisco, California Emergency Child and Youth Care Program

     

     

    Other resources available:

    • CDC Summer Camp Guidance

    • CDC Resources for Schools, Childcare and Youth Sports

      - Childcare during the COVID-19 Pandemic

            ○ Decision Tool

      - Youth Programs and Camps during the COVID-19 Pandemic

            ○ Decision Tool

      - Youth Sports Programs during the COVID-19 Pandemic

    • American Camp Association Camp Operations Guide

    • American Camp Association Resource Center

    • Association of Camp Nurses Resource Center

    • Afterschool Alliance: Blueprint for How Afterschool Programs and Community Partners Can Help

    • Planning for the Next Normal in Out-of-School Time Programs Blog

    NRPA will provide more guidance as available. Check this page regularly for updates.

  • Open or CloseCommunity Events

    Park and recreation professionals frequently plan and host community events and mass gatherings including festivals, sporting events and concerts. These events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 as it can be difficult to maintain physical distancing and people may travel back and forth from other communities, contributing to spreading the virus.

    Professionals should adhere to all guidance issued at the state and local levels from public health and government officials related to limiting the size of gatherings. As other spaces, facilities and programs reopen, agencies should continuously assess community conditions and make decisions about cancelling, postponing or reducing the size of events to reduce the risk of spread.

    When making decisions about reinstating events, professionals will need to assess:

    • The level of transmission in the community and in areas from which people will travel.

    • The overall number of attendees.

    • The population served and number of people attending who may be high-risk.

    • The density of attendees in a confined area and the area where event would occur (e.g. outdoor vs. indoor).

    • The feasibility in limiting the number of people attending.

    • The ability to make modifications to the event that support adherence to physical distancing.

    • The supplies needed to protect event attendees and staff.

    • The level of community awareness and education about the additional public health and safety measures in place.

    • The likelihood of attendees following public health and safety measures and the ability to monitor and enforce measures.

    Based on challenges with maintaining physical distancing and limiting person-to-person contact, NRPA believes that large community events and large gatherings should not occur until there is no widespread community transmission and ideally, until there is a widely available vaccine.

    NRPA will provide more guidance as available. Check this page regularly for updates.

    Other resources available:

    CDC guidance on events and mass gatherings

  • Open or CloseDog Parks

    Park and recreation professionals should adhere to all state and local public health guidance regarding reopening dog parks and their operations and management. In addition, park and recreation professionals should conduct thorough planning prior to reopening that addresses these factors:

    1. Evaluate your space to better understand the surfaces, materials and risks that are present.

    2. Develop your plan for reopening. Plan should include:

    • Physical distancing, limiting capacity and group congregating, and creating monitoring practices and policies.

    • Installing signage and using a variety of communications channels to educate community about dog park user measures — proper hygiene, wearing cloth face coverings, health screenings, etc.

    • Staff and dog park ambassador safety measures — establish policies for safe behavioral practices (PPE, physical distancing, hand washing, face coverings, health screenings, protocols on first aid and CPR, implicit bias training, de-escalation training, etc).

    • Implementing environmental controls — using markers to mark off 6 feet of distance, rearranging equipment, controlling directional traffic, etc.

    • Cleaning and disinfection measures that may be needed for frequently touched surfaces.

    • Having a plan for reverting to previous phases of recovery in the event of increased community spread.

    • Maintain and revise your plan as needed through recovery phases.

     

    CDC has issued guidance for people who have animals. The guidance states “until we learn more about how this virus affects animals, treat pets as you would other human family members to protect them from a possible infection.”

    They have gone on to further advise people who have pets to follow these guidelines until we learn more about how the virus affects animals:

    • Keep cats indoors when possible and do not let them roam freely outside.

    • Walk dogs on a leash at least 6 feet (2 meters) away from others.

    • Avoid public places where a large number of people gather.

    • Do not put face coverings on pets. Covering a pet’s face could harm them.

    NRPA will provide more guidance as available. Check this page regularly for updates.

  • Open or CloseFarmers Markets

    Park and recreation professionals will need to consider several key factors in planning to operate farmers markets. The primary factor to consider is how to support the health and safety of the public, staff and vendors – including the need to implement and enforce personal protection measures and additional mitigation strategies (physical distancing, limiting gatherings, supporting hygiene, etc.). Professionals should conduct a thorough risk assessment of each space, facility, program and event prior to reopening. Professionals should also ensure that their reopening plans for farmers markets are equitable and provide opportunities for those most vulnerable and under-resourced to access healthy foods.

    The Farmers Market Coalition, a major information center for farmers markets and market advocacy, has scaled up a COVID-19 response page to provide best practices, guidance, educational opportunities, and recommendations for safe market operations, signage, sample reopening plans from markets across the country and more. In general, park and recreation professionals that manage farmers markets should create a plan that addresses the following considerations prior to reopening:

    • Ensure that patrons are aware of public health and safety measures, including personal protection and hygiene measures. Disseminate information across a variety of communication channels including signage, webpages, social media, etc.

    • Limit person-to-person interactions by implementing touch-free transactions.

    • Support and monitor physical distancing in all areas of the market.

    • Implement environmental controls, such as redesigning the market layout, installing plexiglass barriers, directional signage, markers to mark 6 ft. of distance, etc. to support physical distancing and limit person-to-person contact.

    • Encourage pre-ordering from vendors as much as possible.

    • Eliminate equipment sharing as much as possible and sanitize all shared equipment after each use according to CDC cleaning and disinfection guidance (tables, chairs, tents, etc.).

    • Limit capacity of the market.

    • Ensure restrooms and other commonly touched surfaces are properly cleaned and disinfected frequently according to CDC guidance.

    • Eliminate demonstrations and taste testing to decrease opportunities for cross-contamination.

    • Encourage proper hygiene by providing hand sanitizer and wash stations.

    For more detailed guidance and sample plans, refer to the Farmers Market Coalition website.

  • Open or CloseGolf Courses

    Park and recreation professionals will need to consider several key factors in plans to reopen golf courses. The primary factor to consider is if the space allows for safe use as outlined in your phased reopening plan – including the need to implement and enforce additional mitigation strategies (physical distancing, limiting gatherings, supporting hygiene, etc.) and personal protection measures. Professionals should conduct a thorough risk assessment of each space, facility, program and event prior to reopening. Professionals should also ensure that their reopening plans are equitable and provide equal opportunities for all community members to recreate.

    • Ensure that patrons are aware of public health and safety measures, including personal protection and hygiene measures. Disseminate information across a variety of communication channels including signage, webpages, social media, etc.

    • Limit person-to-person interactions by implementing touch-free transactions including making reservations online (no walk-up tee times), paying course fees, purchasing equipment or food, etc.

    • Monitor and enforce physical distancing in all areas of the facility – driving range, course, practice greens, in pro shop, etc. Implement environmental controls to support physical distancing and limit person-to-person contact.

    • Encourage walking the course as much as possible.

    • Eliminate equipment sharing as much as possible and sanitize all shared equipment after each use according to CDC cleaning and disinfection guidance (carts, clubs, etc.).

    • Stagger tee times to allow for enhanced cleaning and disinfection between players and limit practice facility usage if necessary.

    • Limit cart use to individual players and only allow carts to be shared when players

    • Establish a policy for group play and monitor and enforce policy.

    • Ensure restrooms and other commonly touched surfaces are properly cleaned and disinfected frequently according to CDC guidance.

    • Eliminate sit-down food and beverage service.

    • Remove sand containers, coolers, pencils, scorecards, movable flagsticks, coolers, and other items from carts and the course that could be subject to frequent contact.

    • Ensure you have contact information from all players.

    • Modify pro shop to support physical distancing and remove items that could be subject to frequent touching. Install 6 ft. markers in pro shop and sneeze guards, control traffic flow, ensure proper ventilation and air flow, etc.

    Find more detailed guidance from the National Golf Owners Association or a sample state plan from Washington.

  • Open or CloseIndoor Recreation and Aquatic Centers

    Park and recreation professionals should adhere to all state and local public health guidance regarding indoor recreation and aquatic center operations and management. In addition, park and recreation professionals should conduct thorough planning prior to reopening that addresses these factors:

    1. Evaluate your facility to better understand the spaces, surfaces, materials and risks that are present.

    2. Develop your plan for reopening. Plan should include:

    • Cleaning and disinfection measures for all parts of facility (restrooms, pool furniture, front desk, concessions, doorknobs, locker rooms, faucets/sinks, etc.).

    • Physical distancing, limiting equipment sharing, limiting capacity and group sizes in programs and creating monitoring practices and policies.

    • Implementing environmental controls — installing sneeze guards and creating barriers between staff and older adults, removal of furniture, using markers to mark off 6 feet of distance, rearranging equipment, etc.

    • Creating a plan for conducting health screenings of staff and users.

    • Installing signage and using a variety of communications channels to educate community about facility user measures — proper hygiene, wearing cloth face coverings, health screenings, etc.

    • Staff safety measures — establish policies for safe behavioral practices (PPE, physical distancing, hand washing, face coverings, health screenings, protocols on first aid and CPR, etc).

    • Having a plan for reverting to previous phases of recovery in the event of increased community spread.

    3. Maintain and revise your plan as needed through recovery phases.

     

    On June 12, 2020, CDC released recommendations for safely using gyms and fitness centers. Park and recreation professionals should implement strategies that support the ability of users to follow this guidance that includes:

    • Options for online reservations and check-in systems.

    • Additional prevention practices, such as new plexiglass barriers, staff wearing cloth face coverings, and closing of shared locker room space.

    • Utilize outdoor space or options for virtual classes and training sessions as much as possible.

    • Limit attendance at indoor group training sessions. Encourage distance between participants and the use of cloth face coverings if they do not interfere with the activity. If you are indoors, open windows to increase airflow throughout the space.

    • Ensure weight rooms, group fitness studios, pools and saunas, courts and fields, walking/running tracks, locker rooms, check-in areas, parking lots and routes of entry and exit are set up in a way that allow users to maintain 6 feet of distance between each other.

    • Ensure equipment is clean and disinfected. In addition to regularly sanitizing machines and equipment, provide and promote the use of disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer for users.

    • Discourage the use of shared items that cannot be cleaned, sanitized, or disinfected between use, such as resistance bands and weightlifting belts.

    • Discourage handshakes, high-fives, elbow bumps, or touching others because close contact increases the risk of acquiring COVID-19.

    Other resources available:

    • CDC’s guidance on using fitness centers

    • International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) COVID-19 Resource Center

    • Tennessee Pledge Exercise Facilities Guidelines

    • Arizona Guidance for Gyms and Fitness Providers

    • United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee Return to Training Considerations Post-COVID-19

      ○ The USOPC is dedicated to protecting the health and safety of Team USA. The purpose of this document is to provide athletes, coaches and sports organizations (including National Governing Bodies [NGBs]) with information they can use to assist them with developing their return to training programs in the context of COVID-19.

  • Open or CloseOutdoor Courts, Skateparks, etc.

    Outdoor Courts

    The reopening of many outdoor courts and other outdoor amenities is largely dependent on the types of activities that will occur in those spaces. Park and recreation professionals will need to consider several key factors as they plan to reopen these spaces.

    The primary factor to consider is if the space allows for safe use as outlined in your phased reopening plan – including the need to implement and enforce additional mitigation strategies (physical distancing, limiting gatherings, supporting hygiene, etc.) and personal protection measures. For example, an outdoor basketball court may provide space for physical distancing and single-use activities that limit equipment sharing, but if physical distancing cannot be enforced and park users are not adhering to physical distancing measures, the space may not be able to reopen safely until there is no widespread community transmission of the virus.

    Professionals should conduct a thorough risk assessment of each space and amenity prior to reopening. Additionally, park and recreation professionals can use Project Play’s Return to Play Risk Assessment tool that provides guidance on several common sports and strategies to minimize risk to participants and others.

    Courts should reopen based on their ability to meet the following criteria:

    • Clear signage posted outlining allowable activities, use and enforcement.

    • Allow for physical distancing and monitoring of distancing requirements.

    • Support single and individual use activities.

    • Limit equipment sharing outside of the same household.

    • Do not require frequent contact with surfaces.

    • Supports hygiene and public health (e.g. access to wash stations, clean restrooms, hand sanitizer, etc.).

    • Frequently clean and disinfect commonly shared surfaces and spaces around the court.

    • Ability to reinstate mitigation measures, including closures if the public is not adhering to recommendations or if transmission increases.

     

    NRPA will provide more guidance as available. Check this page regularly for updates.

  • Open or CloseOutdoor Restrooms (Permanent and Temporary)

    CDC issued guidance for park administrators managing outdoor restrooms on April 10, 2020.

    If possible, restrooms should remain open if a park remains open for public visitation. If restrooms will be closed, notify visitors ahead of time so they can prepare appropriately. Ensure that open restrooms are:

    Operational with functional toilets.

    Cleaned and disinfected regularly, particularly high-touch surfaces such as faucets, toilets, doorknobs and light switches. Clean and disinfect restrooms daily or more often if possible. The EPA-registered household disinfectants listed here are recommended. Ensure safe and correct application of disinfectants and keep products away from children.

    Regularly stocked with supplies for handwashing, including soap and materials for drying hands or hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

    Oftentimes, restroom facilities without running water, such as portable toilets and vault toilets, are not stocked with hand hygiene products. Agencies can rent stand-alone handwashing and sanitizing stations or encourage visitors to be prepared to bring their own hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol for use in these facilities.

    Based on this guidance, both permanent and temporary outdoor restrooms should be opened when they can be regularly cleaned, disinfected and regularly stocked with supplies for handwashing. Restrooms that have closed should be prioritized in a reopening plan, as they support and promote healthy hygiene and public health.

  • Open or ClosePlaygrounds and Outdoor Exercise Equipment

    Playgrounds and Play Structures

    When reopening playgrounds, play structures and similar spaces, park and recreation professionals should adhere to all state and local public health and government guidance and work collaboratively with local public health officials to safely reopen these spaces. Professionals should conduct a thorough risk assessment of all spaces and infrastructure prior to reopening to ensure they are aware of all potential COVID-19-related risks. Remember that guidance continues to evolve as we learn more about the virus. Monitor guidance frequently to account for any changes based on the latest trusted research and data available.

    Reopening Guidance for Playgrounds and Similar Park Infrastructure

    The KABOOM! Playground Reopening Task Force comprised of representatives from public health, community development and the park and recreation profession, including NRPA, has created an actionable resource for playground owners/operators as they plan for safe reopening. Park and recreation professionals should have a detailed plan in place to support the recommendations outlined below.

    1. Prioritize Equity in Reopening Playgrounds

    • If a system has multiple playgrounds, ensure that playgrounds in all neighborhoods have appropriate signage, hand cleaning amenities, and other safety measures. Public agency resources should give first priority to playgrounds in communities that:

       - Have had the highest COVID-19 case counts. To review case counts by city or county, CDC has links to state and local health departments on their website here, and Johns Hopkins has a county level map here

       - Have the fewest resources available to implement these actions.

    • Consult community members about their needs in order to ensure healthful and safe use of playgrounds. Recommendations include collecting community feedback through virtual community meetings, social media, online surveys and physical mailings to homes, as well as collaborating with networks of nonprofits active in your neighborhood.

    *Review NRPA’s Centering Health Equity page for more strategies to prioritize equity.

     

    2. Prepare the Playground Equipment and Space

    • Set reasonable, responsible limits on usage: Determine the number of users who can share the playground while maintaining a physical distance of six feet from one another. These limits should be clearly shared with signage and outreach to playground users, and self-enforced by adults bringing kids to the playground. Judgments on user capacity should factor in the design and layout of the playground structure. Here are two starting approaches:

       - Reduce capacity by two-thirds: Take the total established playground capacity and multiply by 0.33, so that the total capacity is one third of the previous norm for the playground footprint.

       - Ensure users can maintain 6 feet of physical distance: Take the total square footage of the playground footprint and divide by 113 square feet per user to reach a user number that allows each person on the playground to have a 6’ radius around them. As an example, this would mean that a 2500 square foot playground would accommodate a maximum of 22 users.

    • Clean playground equipment using soap and water before reopening. Follow CDC guidance to “continue existing cleaning and hygiene practices for outdoor areas”.

       - NRPA also recommends consulting with playground manufacturer to determine what cleaning products are safe to use on playground equipment.

       - If using disinfectant to clean high-touch areas like handrails, ensure any disinfectant has dried before kids play on the equipment. Ensure cleaning and disinfectant supplies is stored away from kids.

    • Ensure safety surfacing is maintained and all equipment is compliant with safety standards described by ASTM F-1487.¹

     

    3. Enable Safe Playground Use

    Practice safe behavior at the playground:

    Post accessible and visible playground signage, in English and other dominant languages of playground users, geared toward both kids and adults reminding users to:

       - Stay home if they are feeling sick.

       - Wash or sanitize hands frequently.

       - Keep physical distance from other users outside of their household.

       - Come back to play another time if there are more people at the playground than the posted capacity.

       - Cover coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue or cough and sneeze into the elbow rather than hands and throw tissues away after use; wash or sanitize hands after coughing or sneezing. 

       - Wear cloth face coverings or masks (except children under age two). *More information on cloth face coverings below.

    Provide hand washing or hand sanitizing resources for playground users near the playground footprint. Where this is not possible, encourage playground users to bring their own personal hand sanitizer for use during and after playing.

    • Train staff and volunteers to support safe and healthy behaviors by playground users and to make community members feel welcome. Where feasible, periodic site visits by staff and volunteers to encourage safe use is recommended.

    • Engage the community of playground users by sharing written guidelines for safe use with caregivers and kids directly and with the network of educators, kid-focused local nonprofits and health professionals so that playground users can take good care of themselves in accordance with information shared. Utilize the communications methods that usually connect best with playground users, which may include website posts, social media sharing, community meetings and posting on community bulletin boards. Key guidance to share with the community of playground users includes:

    1. Avoid the playground if any member of the household is sick.

    2. Stay proactive: Wash hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and bring hand sanitizer to the playground for use when it is not possible to wash hands. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.

    3. Stay informed: With the information provided either by your local public health department or physician, assess the risks that you and those persons in your care are encountering when accessing a public playspace.

    4. Stay physically distant: ensure six feet of distance between playground users who are not from the same household.

    5. Guidance for wearing cloth face coverings:

       - Ensure that adults and children older than two wear cloth face coverings when visiting the playground.

       - Caregivers and/or playground staff should encourage all children to wear their cloth face coverings properly, and that there are no hanging strings or loops that could catch on equipment.

       - Caregivers and/or playground staff should monitor how masks are being worn. If, because children are unable, or do not want to wear cloth face coverings, or if play is vigorous and the cloth face covering is moving around the face or neck, it would be prudent not to require a child or children to wear the cloth face covering(s). If this is the case, though, it is very important that physical distancing (6-feet or more) be maintained among children using equipment.    

    6. Stay safe together: Discuss your thoughts with your kids and have them help you develop a “safe way to play” plan.

     

    Additional Recommendations and Strategies for Safe Reopening

    NRPA has compiled additional recommendations and strategies for park and recreation professionals as they begin to reopen playgrounds and similar park infrastructure safely and equitably.

    Develop and Implement a Comprehensive Communications Strategy

    Having a well-developed communications plan that provides timely, clear, accessible and culturally relevant information to staff, the public and others regarding reopening plans and procedures is imperative to the safe and efficient reinstatement of operations. Consider how best to:

    • Use a variety of channels and networks and be consistent in relaying messaging to ensure that the public is aware and educated about the public health and safety measures that are in place.

    • Establish a consistent communication loop with playground users to ensure that playground users can provide feedback to park staff and share concerns throughout the reopening process.

    • Prepare for reinstating mitigation measures, including closures of playgrounds, if the public is not adhering to recommendations and/or if rates of transmission increase.

    Establish Protocols to Support Physical Distancing and Limit Gatherings

    Physical distancing is paramount to reducing the risk of spread. Have a plan in place to support and monitor physical distancing, including limiting capacity on the playground and installing signage to encourage physical distancing. Additional strategies to support and monitor physical distancing and limit gatherings may include:

    • Stationing staff or park ambassadors on site or having staff/ambassadors frequently monitor playgrounds to encourage proper use and educate playground users on public health measures. Ensure staff and ambassadors are trained appropriately (see below).

    • Having staff collect and track observational data on playground use to identify specific areas within the park system where additional support, resources, outreach and monitoring may be needed.

    • Limiting parking spaces, access points or reducing hours of operation.

    • Using tape, cones or other markers to mark 6 foot intervals in popular areas of the playground to encourage physical distancing and provide visual cues of what 6 feet looks like.

    Instate Extra Measures to Support Hygiene

    Support hygiene and public health by providing access to wash stations, clean restrooms, and hand sanitizing stations near the playground footprint.

    • Prioritize the reopening of restrooms near playgrounds. Restrooms should be stocked with hand soap and running water and cleaned and disinfected in accordance with CDC guidance to encourage healthy hygiene.

    • If temporary restrooms are located near the playground site, ensure that temporary restrooms are routinely cleaned and disinfected in accordance with CDC guidance.

    • If there are no restrooms near the playground site, consider installing hand sanitizing stations or wash stations.

    Protect Staff and Park Ambassadors

    If staff or park ambassadors will be used at playground sites to monitor use, ensure that staff have the equipment necessary to do their job safely:

    • Ensure that staff who will be performing cleaning and disinfecting at playground sites in accordance with CDC guidance are properly trained and have the equipment necessary to do their job safely.

    • Ensure that staff and ambassadors are trained on handling difficult situations and de-escalation. Make sure they know that they can avoid situations that make them uncomfortable and when to call for additional support.

    • Ensure that staff and ambassadors are representative of the community being served and trained on implicit bias.

     IPEMA and NRPA Infographics for Playgroud User Guidance

    The International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) and NRPA have worked together to a create a set of signage tools for playgrounds, playspaces, and other outdoor equipment to encourage healthy and safe use of these spaces. These tools can be downloaded, printed and posted in your park and recreation facilities as needed.

    Click on image below to open full-size infographic in new window for download. 

     

    Additional Resources:

    • CDC Park Administrator Guidance

    • CDC Park User Guidance

    • KABOOM! COVID-19 Playground Closure Resource and Playground Reopening Guidance

    • International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) Voice of Play Resource Center

     

    ¹Reference ASTM F1487 – 17: Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use at astm.org.

     

    Outdoor Exercise Equipment

    When reopening outdoor exercise equipment, park and recreation professionals can refer to NRPA’s playground reopening guidance.


    NRPA will provide more guidance as available. Check this page regularly for updates.

  • Open or CloseSenior Centers

    Given CDC guidance that all vulnerable individuals, including those aged 65+ and those with underlying chronic health conditions, should continue to shelter in place until there is no evidence of a rebound, park and recreation professionals will need to consider how they support the health and well-being of older adults while protecting them from the virus.

    Park and recreation professionals should adhere to all state and local public health guidance in making decisions about reopening senior centers. In addition, park and recreation professionals should conduct thorough planning prior to reopening addressing these factors:

    1. Evaluate your facility to better understand the spaces, surfaces, materials and risks that are present.

    2. Develop your plan for reopening the facility. Plan should include:

    • Cleaning and disinfection measures for all parts of facility (restrooms, pool furniture, front desk, concessions, doorknobs, locker rooms, faucets/sinks, etc.).

    • Physical distancing, limiting equipment sharing, limiting capacity and group sizes in programs and creating monitoring practices and policies.

    • Implementing environmental controls — installing sneeze guards and creating barriers between staff and older adults, removal of furniture, using markers to mark off 6 feet of distance, rearranging equipment, etc.

    • Creating a plan for conducting health screenings of staff and users.

    • Installing signage and using a variety of communications channels to educate community about facility user measures — proper hygiene, wearing cloth face coverings, health screenings, etc.

    • Staff safety measures — establish policies for safe behavioral practices (PPE, physical distancing, hand washing, face coverings, health screenings, protocols on first aid and CPR, etc).

    • Having a plan for reverting to previous phases of recovery in the event of increased community spread.

    3. Maintain and revise your plan as needed through recovery phases.

    At all times, park and recreation professionals are encouraged to continue providing essential services to older adults including meal programs, food delivery, social connection efforts, well-being checks, and virtual programming.

    NRPA will provide more guidance as available. Check this page regularly for updates.

    Other Resources Available:

    National Council on Aging Resource Center

    CDC’s Older Adults Resource Center

    AARP

  • Open or CloseSports – Youth and Adult

    Engagement in outdoor recreation, including participation in drop-in and organized sports programs, plays a significant role in supporting physical and mental health. As park and recreation professionals begin to develop plans for reopening and resuming activities after meeting essential public health indicators, agencies must consider how to best create an environment that provides opportunities for exercise and physical activity while also minimizing the risk of transmission of the virus. Agencies should follow all state and local public health recommendations and policies in your area.

    In communities where spread has slowed, CDC has outlined considerations for sports programs to reopen while protecting players, families and communities and maintain low levels of spread. Agencies should still consult with local and state health officials to determine if and how to put into place these considerations.

    Guiding principles shared by CDC outlines that the risk of exposure and spread will increase based on:

    • The more people a child or coach interacts with.
    • The closer the physical interaction.
    • The more sharing of equipment by multiple players.
    • The longer the interaction with others.

    Therefore, risk can be different depending on the type of activity and increases in youth sports settings as follows:

    • Lowest Risk: Performing skill-building drills or conditioning at home, alone or with family members
    • Increasing Risk: Team-based practice
    • More Risk: Within-team competition
    • Even More Risk: Full competition between teams from the same local geographic area
    • Highest Risk: Full competition between teams from different geographic areas

    Based on this guidance, agencies should outline a phased reopening plan that allows for lower-risk sports activities, including single-use or household activities, prior to moving towards small group activities that limit equipment sharing, and then reinstating sports programs that bring together larger groups of people who are not from the same household. Larger groups should not come together until there is no widespread community transmission.

    Agencies should assess the risk of each sports program examining the physical closeness of players, the length of time players are close to each other, the necessary sharing of equipment, the ability to physically distance, age of the players (older youth may be able to follow physical distancing and other protective actions more than younger age groups), players who may be at high risk, the size of the team, nonessential spectators, and travel outside the community. Additionally, sports programs should promote behaviors that reduce spread, maintain healthy environments and operations, and prepare for when someone gets sick.

    The Aspen Institute’s Project Play initiative has created a detailed risk assessment tool outlining several common sports and activities, along with how risk could be minimized in each activity. This tool can be used by park and recreation professionals as they determine types of activities and sports that would be allowable, with modifications, in each phase. A few examples are provided below.

    *It is important for all participants in activities at any phase to continue to follow CDC recommendations on cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, including sports equipment, hygiene guidance, wearing face coverings, physical distancing (for spectators as well), covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and staying home when sick.

     

    Activity Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3

    Basketball

    Single/individual use — shooting hoops by oneself or with household

    Small group use – shooting hoops with non-household members limiting the sharing of equipment

    Group use – pick up or organized game play with non-household members and shared equipment

    Tennis

    Single/individual use – practicing skills as an individual or playing with member of household

    Small group use – playing a match with a non-household member limiting the sharing of equipment

    Playing a match with non-household members with no efforts to minimize equipment sharing

    Baseball/Softball

    Single/individual use – practicing skills alone or with household members

    Small group use – training or practicing skills with a non-household member limiting the sharing of equipment

    Group use – pick up or organized game play with non-household members and shared equipment

    Soccer

    Single/individual use – practicing skills along or with household members

    Small group use – training or practicing skills with a non-household member limiting the sharing of equipment

    Group use – pick up or organized game play with non-household members and shared equipment

     

    While some sports programs may be put on hold until there is no widespread community transmission, there are lots of opportunities to engage in recreational activities that are low risk, including practicing yoga, tai chi or meditation, water sports like kayaking and paddle boarding, roller blading or roller skating, dancing, jumping rope, fishing, camping, playing yard games or participating in virtual physical activity programs.

    Other resources available:

    • CDC’s Guidance on Sports Programs

    • The Aspen Institute’s Project Play Resource Center

    • The Aspen Institute’s Project Play Return to Play Risk Assessment

    This risk assessment resource is designed to help people of all ages asses risk in a variety of common sport and recreation activities, including individual sports and team sports. The tool offers guidance on how sports can be restructured or modified to minimize the risk of transmission.

    • United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee — Sports Event Planning Considerations Post-COVID-19

    These recommendations may serve as a tool to spark thoughtful deliberation for event planners to create their own unique event plan specific to their sport and situation.

    • United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee — Return to Training Considerations Post-COVID-19

    These recommendations may serve as a tool to spark thoughtful deliberation for athletes, coaches and staff who will create training plans specific to their sport and situation.

    United States Tennis Association (USTA) Resources:

    • Playing Tennis Safely (Players)

    • Playing Tennis Safely (Facilities)

    • Playing Tennis Safely Flyer

    The Tennis Industry United webpage has been created for our partners and providers and includes resources, webinar opportunities, and daily blog post. 

    USA Softball Resources

    • Back to the Ballpark Recommendations

    US Soccer Foundation (USSF) Resources:

    • USSF Return to Play Guidance, Phase 1: Grassroots

    Little League® Resources:

    • 2020 Little League® Season Resumption Guide

    • Best Practice Guidelines

    USA Pickleball Association Resources:

    • USAPA Guidance on Safe Return to Play

  • Open or CloseSwimming Pools and Splashpads

    Swimming Pools

    Park and recreation professionals should adhere to all state and local public health guidance regarding swimming pool operations and management. In addition, park and recreation professionals should follow CDC guidance released on May 8 as they reopen aquatic facilities. Park and recreation professionals will need to conduct thorough planning prior to reopening, addressing these key factors:

    1. Evaluate your facility to better understand the spaces, surfaces, materials and risks that are present.

    2. Develop your plan for reopening. Plan should include:

    • Cleaning and disinfection measures for all parts of facility daily and after each use if equipment is shared (restrooms, pool furniture, front desk, pool noodles, concessions, doorknobs, locker rooms, faucets/sinks, etc.).

    • Monitoring of physical distancing to maintain 6 ft. of distance between people from separate households while not detracting from lifeguarding responsibilities. Ensuring policies are developed on enforcement of physical distancing.

    • Implementing environmental controls — barriers between staff and pool users, removal of furniture, entry lines with 6 ft of distance, shared spaces including offices, limiting equipment sharing, etc.

    • Swimming pool user measures — proper hygiene, face coverings (not while in water), conducting health screenings, using PSA system to remind users to distance, etc.

    • Staff safety measures — establish policies for safe behavioral practices (physical distancing, hand washing, face coverings, health screenings, protocols on first aid and CPR, etc).

    • Communications and community awareness and education plan.

    3. Maintain and revise your plan as needed through recovery phases.

    For additional guidance, see CDC's Considerations for Public Pools, Hot Tubs and Water Playgrounds During COVID-19


    CDC Resources for Water Management

    CDC’s Water and COVID-19 FAQs page states “there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas, or water play areas. Proper operation and maintenance (including disinfection with chlorine and bromine) of these facilities should inactivate the virus in the water.

    While there is ongoing community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, it is important for individuals as well as owners and operators of these facilities to take steps to ensure health and safety:

    • Everyone should follow local and state guidance that may determine when and how recreational water facilities may operate.

    • Individuals should continue to protect themselves and others at recreational water venues both in and out of the water — for example, by practicing social distancing and proper hygiene.

    • In addition to ensuring water safety and quality, owners and operators of community pools, hot tubs, spas and water play areas should follow the interim guidance for businesses and employers for cleaning and disinfecting their community facilities.


    Swimming Pool Park User Guidance

    There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the water. Proper operation, maintenance and disinfection (with chlorine or bromine) of pools should kill COVID-19.

    Swimming and other water-related activities are excellent ways to get the physical activity needed for a healthy life. If you are not sick or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, it is safe to use swimming pools as long as steps are taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19:

    • Practice social distancing by staying at least six feet (two meters) from others.

    • Avoid large gatherings of more than 10 people.

    • Keep your hands clean by washing hands with soap and water, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.

    Swimming does carry some health risks. Visit CDC’s Healthy Swimming website for information to help you prevent illness and drowning, while having fun and enjoying the health benefits of swimming.

    Additional Resource:

    • NRPA Aquatics Network Monthly Conference Call


    Splashpads/Water Parks/Water Playgrounds

    CDC issued guidance for hot tubs, water playgrounds or water parks on April 10, 2020.

    According to CDC, “There is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread directly to humans from water in pools, hot tubs or spas or water play areas. Proper operation, maintenance and disinfection (for example, with chlorine or bromine) of pools, hot tubs or spas, and water playgrounds should kill the virus that causes COVID-19.” While this means that regular operation, maintenance and disinfection should kill the virus, park and recreation professionals should establish detailed plans in partnership with local public health and government officials that allow for the safe reopening of these spaces.

    Professionals can refer to NRPA’s detailed playground reopening guidance for applicable suggestions on reopening splashpads. At a minimum, plans should include:

    • Installing visible and accessible signage clearly documenting safe use and proper behaviors on site (staying home when ill, proper hygiene, physical distancing, etc.)

    • Ensuring that community members are aware and educated about public health protection measures and risk.

    • Encouraging proper hygiene, hand washing and hand sanitizing – consider having wash stations and hand sanitizing stations on site to support these behaviors.

    • Having a system in place for monitoring physical distancing and limiting gatherings to support public health.

    Be prepared to revert back to closure if community spread increases.

  • Open or CloseWork Spaces and Administrative Offices

    In addition to the public facilities you manage, park and recreation professionals will need to take into account how they create a safe work environment in their work spaces and administrative offices. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidance and considerations for cleaning and disinfecting your facilities.

    Additionally, NRPA has prepared a Workplace Reopening Decision Tool based on draft guidance released by the CDC to help guide you in the reopening process.

    Download a Printable Version of the Workplace Reopening Decision Tool

    Other resources available:

    CDC Decision Tools for Business and Workplaces:
       - Workplaces During the COVID-19 Pandemic

    CDC Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility

    CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), May 2020

    NRPA will provide more guidance as available. Check this page regularly for updates.

News Stories

9.24.20Top Story

State parks face revenue and budget pressures

9.24.20Around the Country

Lee Richardson Zoo in Kan. completes 4 additions

9.24.20Conservation

Pandemic spurs support for preservation at Houston parks