Safety tips for enjoying city trails and parks amid COVID-19 concerns

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (March 26, 2020) – As concerns about the coronavirus remain at the top of our minds, warmer weather means more people are wanting to get out of the house to enjoy some sunshine and fresh air.

While spending time outdoors is encouraged for your mental health, the City of Oak Ridge wants its residents to remember to continue to social distance even on the trails, at city parks and in open spaces.

“It’s important that people get out and get fresh air and exercise, but they need to maintain their social distancing to help prevent the spread of the virus,” City of Oak Ridge Recreation and Parks Director Jon Hetrick said.

Oak Ridge has 48 greenbelt districts comprising approximately 1,566 acres of forested greenbelts that serve as buffers between neighborhoods and offer miles of shaded walking trails for residents. In addition to that, the City also has over 1,300 acres of public parks including the roughly 200 acres of the Centennial Golf Course. Trails are found in both parks and greenbelt districts.

So, before you hit the trails this weekend, you’re asked to remember the following practices:

  • Do not use parks or trails if you are exhibiting symptoms
  • Follow the CDC’s guidance on personal hygiene prior to visiting parks or trails 
  • Be prepared for limited access to public restrooms or water fountains 
  • Share the trail: warn other trail users of your presence as you pass and step aside to let others pass
  • Observe the CDC’s minimum recommended social distancing of 6 feet from other persons at all times

“Enjoy the outdoors and maintain six feet or more from friends and strangers,” Oak Ridge Fire Chief Darryl Kerley said. “Other than that, there aren’t really any other special instructions as long as people are keeping their distance and following CDC recommendations.”

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.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has flagged mental health as a top concern associated with the COVID-19 outbreak because social distancing may take a toll on our mental health, especially during high-stress and anxiety-producing global public health emergencies.

 “We have many, many miles of trails. Go for a walk, enjoy the time outdoors, and maintain a safe space,” Hetrick said.

People should also 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.

“While some basketball courts are open, you shouldn’t play as a group because then you have multiple people touching the ball at once and it’s pretty tough to play the game while keeping space from others,” Hetrick said.

The city has posted signage at parks to encourage people to use caution during this time.

Playgrounds were closed to the public on March 30, 2020. 

COVID-19 is detectable on copper for four hours, cardboard for 24 hours, stainless steel for two to three days, and plastic for up to three days, according to the National Institute of Health.

“Our city’s Recreation and Parks crews are working hard to keep parks safe and accessible. We hope to keep them open and benefiting our communities for as long as possible during these difficult times,” Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said.

Restrooms are closed at the following facilities: The Baseball Complex, Big Turtle Park, Carl Yearwood Park and Melton Lake Park. However, portable restrooms are still open in some park areas.

For more information on City of Oak Ridge greenways and greenbelts, click here. To find a city park nearby, click here.