Coronavirus shutdown: What to try at MetroParks of Butler County to get outdoors

Voice of America MetroPark in West Chester Township was a popular place for those trying to get out of their house and get some exercise while the Stay-At-Home order is in place during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic Thursday, March 26, 2020. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

While kids are learning from home and many parents are working at home, MetroParks of Butler County offers outdoor spaces to enjoy while practicing social distancing.

“Green space is providing a critical connection to the outdoors as well as opportunities for providing physical activity, which can help us reduce stress and it improves our mental health, especially during these kinds of times,” said Kelly Barkley, supervisor of the Division of Community and Enterprise Initiatives at MetroParks of Butler County.

The 11 MetroParks of Butler County enable visitors to enjoy the outdoors through various activities. Residents can pick a time of day that fits their schedule to spend time in nature, hiking trails, exploring natural habitats, and checking out the wildlife.

“MetroParks has tons of great parks, trails and open spaces that are going to continue to be open until we’re told they are not safe to be open. But right now, we believe that they are, as long as they are used in that safe manner, to allow people to enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of those spaces,” Barkley said.

Parks include the Meadow Ridge Area of Elk Creek MetroPark in Madison Twp., Rentschler Forest MetroPark, especially the Reigart Road Area, in Fairfield Twp., and the Timberman Ridge Area of Forest Run MetroPark, she said.

Meadow Ridge Area of Elk Creek MetroPark opened in December 2018, and it offers miles of natural walking paths, paved paths, and catch and release ponds, for example.

“People are recognizing that this is a good healthy place to get out of your home, while still being safe,” she said.

The MetroParks Park Connection staff will also be sharing some things on the MetroParks of Butler County Facebook page that will keep area families engaged with nature and the outdoors, such as things families can do with their kids outdoors, at the parks or in your own backyard.

Barkley said MetroParks of Butler County is part of a joint statement on using parks and open space, while maintaining social distancing. She said there is protocol when residents are out in a public park and on trails.

A portion of the National Recreation and Park Association statement reads, “We believe that many parks, trails and open spaces can continue to be used in a safe manner that allows people to enjoy the mental and physical health benefits these spaces provide. In all instances, we recommend people follow local, state and national ordinances and guidelines regarding the use of these spaces and recognize that these vary from community to community.”

Barkley said that the guidelines on “Using Parks and Open Space While Maintaining Physical Distancing” released by the National Recreation and Park Association will apply at MetroParks of Butler County.

In places where there are no restrictions on the use of local parks, trails and open spaces, users should follow these safe practices when visiting the parks:

• Refrain from using parks or trails if you are exhibiting symptoms of illness.

• Follow CDC’s guidance on personal hygiene prior to and during use of parks or trails.

• Prepare for limited access to public restrooms and/or water fountains.

• While on the trails, warn other users of your presence and as you pass, and step aside to let others pass.

• Follow CDC guidance on the recommended size of social gatherings including outdoor picnicking, pick-up sports and other group hangouts, and maintain proper physical distance at all times.

• Observe CDC’s minimum recommended social distancing of 6 feet from other individuals at all times. If this is not possible, users should find an alternate location or depart that space.

• Consult local and state ordinances and guidelines for the most up-to-date recommendations on park and trail use.

At this time, MetroParks has increased access to all park customer-owners by waiving launch fees for hand-carried water craft on the northern most lake at Voice of America MetroPark, located at 7850 VOA Park Drive in West Chester. Additionally, during this time, fees are waived to fish in the lake as well. However, fishing is catch and release.

Restrooms located in buildings are closed, as are the buildings; however, portalets will remain open in the locations where they have regularly been located. Per Gov. Mike DeWine’s directives, all playgrounds in the park system are closed. For more information about MetroParks of Butler County, visit www.yourmetroparks.net. Alerts, cancellations and closures are noted on the MetroParks of Butler County website.

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