Minneapolis once again threatens closures as people aren't social distancing at parks

It could lead to the closure of playgrounds and athletic courts.
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Minneapolis Parks and Recreation has once again warned that it could close down more outdoor amenities if people don't adhere to social distancing guidelines at city parks.

MPRB Superintendent Al Bangoura said on Thursday that "despite our efforts, we continue to see park users not following social distancing guidelines."

St. Paul this week announced the closure of its playgrounds and sports courts after Gov. Tim Walz extended the Stay at Home order, but Minneapolis doesn't want to do the same even though it has already shut down beaches and other aquatic amenities for the whole summer.

"Locally and across the country, urban and suburban park agencies have had to close playgrounds, trails, athletic courts and athletic fields to the public, and we would really like to avoid having to do so," Bangoura said.

Since the onset of COVID-19, the Parks and Recreation Board has sought to increase social distancing space by closing a number of its parkways to vehicles and opening it up to pedestrians.

On Thursday it announced that the southbound lane of East Bde Maka Ska Parkway would be the latest to close to vehicles, while West River Parkway would re-open to motorists between Plymouth and 4th Avenue North.

To deter gathering at parks, the board has placed 1,500 multi-language signs at parks, trails, playgrounds, courts and fields encouraging people to keep at least 6 feet away from others.

"This is a public health crisis and we all need to do our part to keep our communities safe and healthy," said Bangoura.

"We recently received guidelines from the Minneapolis Health Department, and we feel they provide clear direction on how to the public can social distance while taking part in a variety of park activities. We ask the public to take them seriously."

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MPRB vice president LaTrisha Vetaw has also expressed concern about the city's African American community, noting that black people are dying at a disproportionate level across the country.

"Parks are such an important community asset – especially to those without a lot of resources. I completely understand the desire to meet your friends at the park for a game of basketball or soccer," she said.

"However, doing so puts you and your family at risk. I am concerned by the number of young people I see congregating at parks in my neighborhood on the Northside. Black and brown communities are at a higher risk of severe complications from COVID. 

"Many of us live in multi-generational households. The young people I see at the park might not get sick themselves, but they might bring the virus home with them and infect their aunties and grandmas. So, please, follow social distancing guidelines. Use the parks but use them responsibly to protect your loved ones."

The Minneapolis Health Department has issued the following guidelines: 

  • At playgrounds, only one household using the playground structure at a time, with time limited to give others a turn is allowed; more than one household of children using the playground equipment at the same time is not allowed.
  • At tennis courts, only one person on each side of net is allowed; playing doubles or hitting with more than one person on each side of the net is not allowed.
  • At basketball courts, shooting hoops alone or with members of the same household is allowed; playing basketball games or shooting hoops with other people not in the same household is not allowed.

If these rules aren't followed, tennis nets and basketball rims will be removed, and playgrounds will be closed.

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