DeKalb County keeps parks open during pandemic

The public health crisis that has followed the coronavirus of 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has caused many businesses and restaurants to alter their practices, and parks in DeKalb County are no exception. While some have closed, parks under the authority of DeKalb County Parks and Recreation and the city of Decatur’s parks have remained open but are urging visitors to practice social distancing.

An announcement from DeKalb County Parks and Recreation states, “All recreation facilities, playgrounds and fitness stations will be closed to the public and county parks will remain open for outdoor use.”

The county is urging all park goers to practice social distancing and to follow CDC guidelines.

“[Local parks, trails and open spaces] provide a critical connections to the outdoors and green space as well as opportunities for physical activity, which studies demonstrate reduces stress and improves mental health,” National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) President and CEO Kristine Stratton said in a statement.

The city of Decatur was one of 500 groups to sign a joint statement with the NRPA to support and show the value of parks and open spaces while maintaining social distance, according to city of Decatur officials.

City officials said that Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett’s stay-at-home order allows residents to visit local parks and dog parks as long as they practice social distancing. However, Decatur closed its playgrounds, park restrooms and skate park until further notice.

Tennis courts at Oakhurst and Scott Park remain open to the public at no cost.

Signs are posted at parks in Decatur to remind and educate visitors about social distancing and how to safely use parks during the crisis.

Despite Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance’s marquee event—Monadnock Madness—being canceled, the national heritage area, a group of parks, mountains and paths located on and around Arabia Mountain, is still open and being monitored by DeKalb County and Georgia State Parks.

Arabia Alliance officials said they are unsure whether rescheduling the tours and events from Monadnock Madness is possible, but added that most of the heritage area is still open to guests for self-guided tours and events that include self-guided Hike As You Like options, Junior Ranger programs and geocaching.

“Flowers are blooming, and the mountain is really showing off right now,” said Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance Communications Manager Zack Loehle. “Guests can still visit while practicing proper social distancing.”

Arabia Alliance said that it is referring questions regarding what steps to take during the pandemic to its partners, which include DeKalb County Parks and Georgia State Parks.

Additional updates for DeKalb County parks can be found at www.dekalbcountyga.gov/coronavirus, while municipalities’ and Arabia Alliance’s websites also will provide updates on their situations.

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