Most parks remain open, but many facilities are closed


March 25, 2020 

By John Hayes / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It’s OK to go to the park. Just keep your distance from fellow visitors.

Most trails, woodlands and open spaces run by various government entities remain open for recreation, but restrictions at park facilities apply inconsistently as administrators grapple with restricting the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

Guidelines generally follow recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which describe social distancing as “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance, approximately six feet, from others when possible.”

The CDC lists no specific advice for social distancing outdoors, but the World Health Organization says six feet is generally accepted as the distance at which the breath of two individuals stops mingling. Wind or physical movement could change that distance.

Almost all educational activities, events and group gatherings from the national park system to community parks have been cancelled. People in high-risk populations, such as the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, are being asked to stay at home.

Bulletins have been posted on municipal websites listing closings at playgrounds, parks and parklets. Residents should contact local park services for details.

All playgrounds in the city of Pittsburgh were closed Monday.

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy said in a statement Tuesday that parks will remain open for walking, hiking and running.

“To ensure that [parks] remain open and safe for all, it is crucial for every visitor, even those who consider themselves completely healthy, to maintain safe physical distance from other park users while spending time in our parks, on our trails, in open spaces and in nature,” said Jayne Miller, Conservancy president and chief executive officer.

All Parks Conservancy restrooms and other facilities are closed until further notice. That includes the Frick Environmental Center, Parks Conservancy South Side offices, Schenley Plaza maintenance building, Schenley Park Café and Visitor Center, and the horticultural and forestry facility.

At the nine parks managed by Allegheny County, facilities remain open with a caveat to use them with caution.

“Engaging in outdoor activity, such as walking, hiking, biking or running is permitted under Gov. Tom Wolf’s Stay at Home order,” stated a message published by the county Tuesday. “If park-goers choose to use restrooms, playground equipment, exercise equipment, benches or other outdoor items with touch surfaces, proper handwashing and/or use of hand sanitizer is strongly encouraged before and afterward.”