Managing Recreation Opportunities in Unprecedented Times

by Kelly Tolbert, Recreation Coordinator, City of Prescott

Recreation is important to everyday quality of life, but when faced with large unknowns such as the COVID-19 virus outbreak taking precautions while managing to offer safe recreation opportunities is challenging. Having never experienced this in our lifetimes, parks and recreation professionals are left with intense decisions on closures, rescheduling of large group events, responsible messaging, and managing employee dynamics. 

A major aspect of the social distancing philosophy is to reduce infections that can be transmitted by droplet contact (sneezing or coughing), direct physical contact, or airborne transmissions. By lessening the probability of contact between infected or exposed persons, the number of people infected and ultimately the mortality rate is reduced. Some disadvantages to social distancing are loneliness and loss of human interaction. Human interaction has a positive influence on increased physical health, boosting immune systems, more positive outlook on life, mental sharpness and overall longevity of life. 

Open air spaces may seem like the natural no-brainer cure for socializing during times of infectious disease scares. While passive recreation is important for physical health and boosting immune systems, germs can remain active on surfaces for several days it seems. This includes door handles, playground equipment, picnic tables, trash cans, and basically any surface that can be touched. Parks departments vary in approaches taken to limit possible transmission including closing entire parks, limited closures of facilities within parks (restrooms, visitor centers, and campgrounds), and even going as far as to waive parking or entrance fees to encourage usage. 

In a time where social connections are already facing decline, it is more important that people feel the benefits of meaningful connections while keeping safe physical distance. Social connection is a primal human need and has been shown to improve performance of the cardiovascular, endocrine and immune systems which all can assist in reducing the risk in contracting illness as well as aiding the ability to fight symptoms. 

While faced with this current pandemic, it is perhaps more important than ever to care not only for yourself but maintain these social connections which may involve getting creative. Thankfully, Prescott has plenty of opportunities to be with friends while maintaining the recommended six feet of distance between yourself and anyone else. Over one hundred miles of multipurpose trails are easily accessed essentially from our backyards. Take them by foot, bicycle or horseback and invite a friend or family member to join along. Antelope Hills Golf Course offers 36 holes over two courses with special rates depending on when you want to play. Watson Lake has bocce ball courts as well as 18 holes of disc golf available for use during lake hours. Fishing from the shore is a great way to connect with nature or friends. Perhaps taking a chance trying something new will lead to making memories, finding a new passion, or simply escaping reality if only for a short while. For more information on recreation opportunities in Prescott visit: www.prescott-az.gov 

Photo by Chris Hosking