Coronavirus

Parks remain open, but officials work to keep people off equipment

A public notice sign stating that all park district playgrounds are closed stands at the edge of the parking lot near the playground at Veteran Acres Park on Thursday in Crystal Lake.
A public notice sign stating that all park district playgrounds are closed stands at the edge of the parking lot near the playground at Veteran Acres Park on Thursday in Crystal Lake.

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The natural inclination for people who have been cooped up in their homes is to get outside for some sort of physical activity, especially with an upswing in temperatures this week.

Some people, however, in their zest for outdoor exercise, have gone past what municipalities are accepting under the stay-at-home guidelines put down by Gov. JB Pritzker last week regarding COVID-19.

While parks and paths are open to runners, bicyclists and walkers, other park property – playground equipment, basketball and tennis courts, baseball fields – are not to be used. These unfamiliar times come with a learning curve.

“We have had some concerned citizens calling and emailing saying, ’Hey, there are kids on a playground here,’” Woodstock Police Chief John Lieb said. “Our officers will try to address it. The stance we’re taking is, while it’s a governor’s order, we are really looking for citizen compliance. We’re all in this together. We need to work through it together.”

The stay-at-home order was designed to keep even small groups of people to a minimum in order to help slow down the spread of the coronavirus. Police around McHenry County have stopped basketball and football games in public areas because those did promote proper social distancing.

“The parks themselves are generally open, any of the facilities and equipment is restricted,” said Michael Klunk, deputy chief of the Huntley Police Department. “Anyone who wants to walk through the park with their dogs, that would still be available to them. Any equipment or facilities are restricted. The basketball courts we’ve addressed a few times. The idea with social distancing is what’s key here. Unfortunately, there are no sports where you can maintain social distancing.”

Playgrounds in Cary were taped off to remind people not to use equipment, which could then be touched by others. Lieb said Woodstock’s Public Works put signs on playground areas as reminders.

“We’ve had a couple calls where, especially with the nicer weather, people expressed concerns that there were too many people in a certain area at a park,” Cary Police Department Deputy Chief Scott Naydenoff said. “Some of it is confusing to people about what is open and what isn’t. As more and more gets clarified, people are starting to adjust to it.”

Lieb understands the need for people to enjoy some time outdoors.

“That’s the balance we have to look for,” Lieb said. “We want people to get physical activities. It’s good for folks’ mental well-being when they get physical exercise. When it’s done in a group we ask they maintain social distancing. When I go around town, there is a noticeable and significant decrease in traffic. People are abiding by the stay-home guidance put out by the state and the city.”

For local volunteer opportunities in McHenry County, visit the Volunteer Center McHenry County.

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