Whether it makes sense to us or not, Albany has no choice but to keep barring children — and anyone else — from the play equipment in the city’s parks.
In recent weeks the yellow “caution” or pink “danger/peligro” tape at some playgrounds had become tattered or disappeared. But last week it seemed to have been restrung just as Linn and Benton counties were entering Phase 2 of lessened restrictions in the coronavirus crisis.
So what’s going on?
“Unfortunately,” Albany Parks and Recreation Director Kim Lyddane explains, “playgrounds are specifically called out in Phase II sector guidelines to stay closed. They are to stay closed as they are an area prone to attracting crowds, it is difficult to have kiddos physically distance, and the area can’t be disinfected after each playtime. We were hoping they would get cleared in Phase II but sadly it looks like they are going to stay closed across the state at this time.”
The Oregon Health Authority came out with new “guidance” for outdoor recreation organizations on June 4. In the corona era, “guidance” is the new word for “orders,” it appears. And under these orders, public parks are required to, among other things, “keep day use areas prone to attracting crowds closed, including but not limited to playgrounds, picnic shelters, water parks and pools, and sports courts for contact sports like basketball.”
Crowds? That concept hardly applies to playgrounds in Albany city parks. But state orders don’t allow for such distinctions.
Apparently the tape alone has not been enough to keep children from climbing on the equipment.
“In the upcoming week you may see some additional fencing go up to remind folks to stay off the structures,” Lyddane told me in an email this morning. “The caution tape and signage get removed regularly, and our staff can’t keep up with the monitoring in addition to all of their mounting duties. Because of this we need to find better ways to signal the structures are still closed in Phase II.”
Do playgrounds in public parks play a significant role in the spread of Covid-19? The state officials in charge of “guidance” evidently think they do. (hh)