Letter: County role in ensuring a safe outdoor environment

Letter: Ensuring a safe outdoor environment
Doug Bataille
Director of Parks and Recreation
St. Johns County, FL

Dear Historic City News subscribers:

Concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak continue to affect our way of life in St. Johns County. Many of us live here for easy access to incredible coastal and outdoor amenities, and now our ability to enjoy these features has temporarily changed. The County continues to respond to this health emergency, while maintaining access to our parks and ensuring a safe outdoor environment.

Across the country, most communities are keeping parks open while closing indoor facilities. Although we have closed beaches and recreation centers and canceled organized activities and events, our parks, trails, boat ramps, green spaces, and the golf course remain open. We will continue to monitor the situation, and, with your help, we will keep access to these amenities available for as long as safely possible.

Parks, trails, and green spaces are an essential part of community health and wellness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has flagged mental health as a top concern associated with the COVID-19 outbreak. We all know that physical distancing will take a toll on our mental and physical health, especially during the stress and anxiety caused by these unprecedented times. Numerous studies demonstrate that access to the outdoors and opportunities for physical activity reduces stress and improves mental health.

We believe that parks, trails, and green spaces can continue to be used in a safe manner that allows people to enjoy the mental and physical health benefits these spaces provide. Please follow local, state, and federal ordinances and guidelines regarding physical distancing and the use of these spaces. We encourage all residents to also follow these recommendations:

  • Refrain from using parks or trails if you are experiencing symptoms of illness.
  • Follow CDC guidance on personal hygiene prior to and during use of parks or trails.
  • While on trails, warn others of your presence and step aside to let others pass.
  • Always follow CDC guidance on the recommended size of social gatherings and maintain proper physical distance when participating in outdoor group activities.
  • Observe the CDC minimum recommended physical distance of 6 feet when in the presence of others or find an alternate location if not possible.

Local parks, trails, and green spaces have always served as places where people can find renewal and restoration. During these challenging times, these places are needed now more than ever. As our current environment continually evolves over the next several weeks, additional closures and service disruptions may occur. Please know that Parks and Recreation staff are working hard to maintain these spaces and keep them safe and accessible to our community during this time.

Be sure to visit our Facebook page to get access to a variety of online programming and activities that the whole family can enjoy. We all need to do our part and utilize parks in a way that shows respect to each other and public health.