It’s been two weeks since the City of Sioux Falls limited access to park facilities as part of the effort to promote social distancing. Parks are still open, but the city shut down playgrounds and sports fields to prevent groups from gathering. The parks are an important outdoor antidote for people who are coming down with cabin fever. Find out just how therapeutic a walk in the park can be.
Dale Wieker visits Falls Park two or three times a day.
“It means a lot to me to be able to get out and around,” Wieker said.
Wieker’s dog, Dexter, is his faithful travel companion.
“Sometimes we walk around at home. But he likes it out here better,” Wieker said.
Sioux Falls city parks are seeing plenty of visitors this spring despite areas that are off-limits because of COVID-19.
“When we have good weather days, people are getting out and exercising, using the trails, using the city parks. But obviously, one of the things that’s not in play our playgrounds, the dog parks, our sports fields for organized activities and so we really want to make sure people are avoiding those areas.” Sioux Falls Parks & Recreation Director Don Kearney said.
But even on cold, blustery spring days you’ll find park-goers enjoying a walk.
“I was always athletic my whole life. Every day, I’d be out, it doesn’t matter if it’s freezing here. I’ve got plenty of clothes, so you can always bundle up,” Alexandra Swanson of Sioux Falls said.
Alexandra Swanson savors every stride because in 2016, she was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer.
“It’s definitely important, you know, your life, you know, is physical, mental spiritual,” Swanson said.
Swanson visits the park every day. She was social-distancing long before the pandemic.
“Every time I would get my chemo drug, the pharmacist would say wash your hands, stay away from sick people, precautions that I take right now, so it’s natural,” Swanson said.
The wide-open spaces of Sioux Falls city parks offer an inviting landscape for people to clear their minds, a step at a time.
“And so when people have the opportunity to get out, it’s really important for their well-being to be physically active, to get some fresh air and just enjoy nature,” Kearney said.
The city has posted signs on the parks to remind visitors to keep their distance from one another.
“What I’ve seen is that they’ve really gotten better as they’ve been out experiencing the parks. They’re keeping their distance better than they have been when it originally came out,” Kearney said.
City crews are doing some spring cleaning by removing thousands of Christmas lights at Falls Park. But overall maintenance at city parks will be cut-back during the course of the pandemic.
“We’re really going to be on a minimal level of maintenance in our park system for the foreseeable future. We’re essentially going to be mowing, picking up trash, but a very limited amount of maintenance just because of the fact that most of the areas are closed to the general public,” Kearney said.
People who might be going stir-crazy, cooped-up at home all day, can find a refreshing release outdoors. Just remember to keep your distance, and enjoy the scenery.
While Falls Park draws the bulk of visitors, Kearney reminds everyone that there are more than 80 parks located throughout the city. He urges you to explore a park you haven’t visited before. There will probably be fewer people around, so social-distancing will be much more manageable. To see where those parks are located, click here