Parks have been a refuge for people during the novel coronavirus pandemic, and as Ohio continues to re-open, MetroParks of Butler County will reopen many features beginning today, according to the Journal-News.
“In most of the parks that MetroParks owns and/or manages, traffic counters tell us we are seeing an increase of about 50 percent in the number of visitor occurrences as compared to the same time last year,” said Kelly Barkley, MetroParks spokeswoman. “People want greenspace now more than ever.”
Beginning today, here are the changes that will be incorporated at all MetroPark properties:
• Shelters will be available for rental by calling 513-867-5835 for groups of 10 or less;
• All modern restrooms will re-open;
• All drinking fountains will be re-opened, including the water accessible at the Wiggly Field dog park at Voice of America MetroPark; and
• Throughout August, the Reigart Road Area at Rentschler Forest MetroPark, 5701 Reigart Road, will open an hour earlier at 7 a.m. for early morning walkers. The park will close at dark. Beginning on Sept. 1, the regular 8 a.m. to dark hours will resume.
The park’s furloughed team members returned to work on Monday to get the parks ready, including enhanced cleaning regimes in compliance with COVID-19 standards for restrooms and drinking fountains, and to focus on trail maintenance.
The DeWine Administration and the White House Coronavirus Task Force still advise against large social gatherings and indoor events, but park visits are encouraged. The Google Analytics mobility reports show park usage in Ohio has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
From June 13 to July 25, park usage across the state has increased 285 percent compared to baseline data (park usage from Jan. 3 to Feb. 6), according to the report. In Butler County, that’s increased by 252 percent over that same timeframe. Other activities, state and countywide, like shopping and non-park recreation activities, are still well below baseline averages, according to the report.
“To the best of our ability, we have looked at things from every angle to determine how we can still strategically operate like a business and still make certain that the dollars we spend as an organization benefit the greatest number of people who pay for the parks,” Barkley said. “After looking hard enough we found a way.”