This spring, Ohioans were ordered to stay home — but with a few notable exceptions. Outdoor exercise (provided safe social distancing guidelines were followed) was not only allowed, but encouraged. And the Great Parks of Hamilton County stayed open, providing a safe place for fresh air and exercise.
Remaining open wasn’t without challenges, however. Great Parks had to close many of its beloved attractions and cancel big annual events.
Cincinnati Parent spoke with Great Parks Public Engagement Coordinator Kimberly Whitton about some of the challenges they’ve faced — and why the parks are so important.
It’s been a tumultuous last few months. How are you holding up?
Great Parks continues to follow the COVID virus situation very closely to ensure our park guests are safe and to help in determining ongoing facility and program/event cancellations, closures and openings. Overall, the parks are an important part of many people’s lives right now and we want to ensure we are providing our community access to the great outdoors.
What are you doing to keep Great Parks up and running during this time?
Although facilities and programming have had to be closed or cancelled, Great Parks has kept the parks open through the pandemic, providing the community with access to passive recreation like trails, personal canoe/kayak and fishing, disc golf, and most recently, opening of golf courses.
Once Great Parks learned about the restrictions put in place with public gatherings and the stay-at-home order was put in place, we knew we had to find a way to provide park guests with continued access to nature education. This is when [email protected] was created, which provides fun and educational activities, crafts, videos and more that families can engage in from the comfort of their homes.
What are some of the ways you’re staying connected with the community/helping the community during this time?
First and foremost, the biggest way we have stayed connected with the community is by keeping the parks open and providing access to the great outdoors. Another way we have stayed connected is through our [email protected] series, which was started after in person programming had to be cancelled. The series was created with all ages in mind, offering everything from coloring sheets to scavenger hunts, to crafts and outdoor games. We’ve also started daily interactive Facebook and Instagram Live videos at 10 a.m. on weekdays, featuring experiences and providing project ideas. [email protected] is housed on our blog (greatparks.org/parksathome) and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Right now, everything still feels very uncertain. What are you hoping for the future? How can Cincinnati parents help?
As Ohio reopens, we are hoping to gradually open our parks more, including facilities, playgrounds, picnic areas, programs and events. We will do this with everyone’s health and safety in mind. Cincinnati parents can continue to utilize our [email protected] series and follow us on social media as we look forward to opening more of our park areas.