SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The public can’t play basketball and kids can’t play on playground equipment and other facilities are off limits, but the public still has limited use city parks, Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Director Don Kearney said today.
Here’s what is off-limits: No use of playground equipment, basketball courts, shelter houses or benches, of dog parks and no organized games on athletic fields or social gatherings at the park. Users must maintain proper social distancing on bike and walking trails and on all park property areas that are not closed to the public.
Kearney said, for example, if a person wants to bring a lawn chair and eat lunch or read a book in the park, that’s fine, as long as the person is six-feet away from others. He’d also recommend staying away from any common surface areas such as a railing.
“It is a fluid situation that seems to change daily,” Kearney said of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For now, the ban on the use of facilities is for an indefinite period of time, Kearney said. Whether or not it gets more restrictive depends in large part on the users.
The city has at least 80 parks in its 3,178-acre park system. It also has a 29-mile paved bike trail.
The department’s 2018 annual review said certain parts of the park system had 2,768,655 in attendance in 2018. Attendance includes visitors which can be tracked through park shelter usage, attendance at the Butterfly House at Sertoma Park, attendance at special events, attendance at the city’s indoor and outdoor aquatics facilities and similar activities.
In 2018, the city had 24 outdoor basketball courts. The rims will be removed from those courts and they are closed to public use. Also impacted are 16 sand volleyball courts, 73 softball courts, 60 soccer fields and the like on which there can be no organized games or social gatherings and violations of six-foot physical social distancing.
Kearney has the authority to close park facilities and park grounds. The decision to close facilities in Sioux Falls was made after this past weekend’s improper use, he said.
“We had a bunch of people gather in shelters,” Kearney said. Users also played full-court basketball games and many kids were using playground equipment, all of which violate physical social distancing, Kearney said.
Parks are for the people but the facilities closures are “doing what’s in the best interest for the community itself,” Kearney said.
“We’re trying to slow the spread (of COVID-19) when people aren’t social distancing…,” Kearney said.
Kearney said city officials consult with local, state and federal health care officials as well as local medical officials. In addition, the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) had guidelines on COVID-19 response for cities, Kearney said.
“We’re monitoring other cities that are further along in this (COVID-19) process,” Kearney said. It’s helpful to learn what actions those cities have taken and how those actions have helped, he said.