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Wright County News

Posted on: March 19, 2020

Wright County Parks Are Open and Being Used As an Oasis of Outdoor Activity

Wright County is proud of its parks system and residents utilize them throughout the year. But, there are slow times in between seasons, with March being one of them. With no snow left for winter activities and it is too early for the springtime warmup, making county parks something of a No Man’s Land this time of year.

With so many people left at home with the closure of schools and businesses due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, Parks & Recreation Administrator Marc Mattice said that a byproduct of the forced isolation of children and adults has led to a surprising increase in the number of visitors to Wright County parks.

“They’re biking, they’re walking and some are just sitting around and relaxing,” Mattice said. “It can be a way of relieving stress and we’re all feeling some of that these days. They’re keeping healthy both physically and mentally.”

Wright County parks are always an attraction, but not usually in mid-to-late March. In 2020, however, that has changed given the unique circumstances everyone is living under.

“Our high usage times are typically when the weather starts to warm up in April up until the first snowfall,” Mattice said. “The parks get used year-round, but this is usually one of those lull periods between the winter activities like cross country skiing and snowshoeing and when things start greening up.”

Mattice said that because the ground is still saturated in some areas, there is more action at parks with paved trails – Otsego, Montissippi and Clearwater-Pleasant.

Having such activity in the park system is unusual for this time of year and Mattice is glad to see the parks he oversees being used as much as they are, coming at a time when there are a lot fewer entertainment options available.

“What we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks as things have been closing – malls, fitness centers, community centers – people are still looking to get out and do something to get some exercise,” Mattice said. “They’re starting to use the parks and trails as kind of an escape.”

The advantage to having fun outdoors in the park system is that, while measures are being made to limit large-crowd gatherings, the parks are expansive enough that people can enjoy wide open space with their families and friends and not put themselves at risk.

“It provides them with a larger area where they can provide their own social distancing,” Mattice said. “You can have a lot of people out there because there is a lot of space available and you can be off on your own without coming in close contact with others.”

The forced self-quarantining that all of us are facing to some degree is especially difficult for young children. They typically get their fair share of exercise at school or daycare, but most are currently stuck inside for much of the day. For them, going to a park can be a normalizing event in a surreal time.

“I expect it to continue to grow now that we have schools closing,” Mattice said. “Kids get tired of being cooped up at home and need to expend their energy. There aren’t a lot of places they can go, but one place is the parks so they can run and jump and play.”

Wright County has portable toilets on site in each park, but Mattice said some should use caution in using them because of the public use component of communal bathrooms. The Parks & Recreation staff is keeping them as clean as possible, but after one person uses one, it may not be clean anymore. Water fountains won’t be on, so people are asked to bring their own water if they feel they need it and to clean up after themselves when they leave. He also added that playground structures are very difficult to keep sanitized, so precautions such as using hand sanitizer should be taken into account when children are using them.

“I would advise that people continue to use safety protocols that are recommended like social distancing,” Mattice said. “When you’re walking or biking or hiking, you usually want that separation from other people anyhow. People are going through a tough time right now and they have a lot of stress about how long this will last. We’re happy that people are taking advantage of our county parks and hope it continues.”

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