Troy Daily News - story by Melanie Yingst
MIAMI COUNTY –While the state has mandated the closure of schools and indoor recreation, residents are flocking to its park systems in search of fresh air and to enjoy the outdoors during the shelter-in-place order through April 6.
Miami County Parks Executive Director Scott Myers said, “It’s a great time for us to provide a solution for people to get outside and try to have some normalcy in their lives and to get out from the mental and physical standpoint.”
Last week, park rangers had to control parking and traffic at Charleston Falls Preserve, the county’s most popular park located in the southern part of the county near Huber Heights. During the park district’s board of park commissioners meeting on Thursday, held via video conference, Myers said more than 3,000 visitors at the Charleston Falls park were recorded on Wednesday, as well as the weekend and parking overflow was an issue. Park gates were used to control traffic by the rangers to keep the park from overcrowding.
Crowds also were observed at Stillwater Prairie Reserve and Maple Ridge Reserve parks near Covington. Myers said staff has been posting on social media to encourage the public to visit its other parks within its system. Board member Dr. Robert Malarkey said he’s seen an increase in visitors at the Hobart Urban Nature Preserve. Elizabeth Gutmann said she has enjoyed seeing whole families together at Stillwater during the last few weeks.
“It’s the one upside of all this that people are spending time together as a family. It’s a positive and it’s nice they are in our parks,” Gutmann said. Gutmann said she’s also visited both Garbry parks and the new boardwalk and noticed the increase in visitors there.
Myers said one of the best places to enjoy the outdoors within the park system is the recreation trails. Story book walks are also available at Wannemacher Nature Reserve, Stillwater, Honey Creek Preserve and Big Woods at Garbry parks. The park district’s education staff is also posting ideas on social media for students and families.
The park district has cancelled its programs through the month of April. Myers said the park district will continue to plan for the Hug the Earth Festival in May, but it will prepare for the event to cancel if schools are closed. Myers said vendors have been understanding to the situation and the park district will not be bound to pay them if the event is canceled. Board members also expressed concern with the potential for low turnout due to lingering health concerns and community gatherings even after the shelter in place order has been lifted. Assistant Director Kevin Swanson said the county parks are inline with what other park districts around the state are doing in terms of safety and health precautions. Swanson noted some national parks have closed due to the inability to limit crowds.
Provided by the Miami County Park District:
• The park district has closed all indoor facilities including restrooms and port-a-johns as part of safety precautions.
• Specific trash cans have been removed, so please “Leave No Trace” and take out what you take into the parks
• Practice social distancing and avoid close contact with others. The CDC recommends a minimum of a six-foot distance to help reduce the risk of spread between individuals.
• Do not congregate in groups of 10 people or more. While the park district prides itself on being a friendly community, please avoid social gatherings in parks at this time.
• Please take your temperature before visiting and stay home if it is elevated or if you are feeling sick. Practice good hygiene and wash your hands after touching surfaces within the parks.
• Research shows that being outside in nature is good for mental and physical health. Studies continue to show that being outside helps with everything from anxiety and depression to helping to build the immune system.