Finding Health and Community in Our Parks
March 19, 2020 by Tom Evers
I am writing this update from the comfort of my home, where through my windows, I see neighbors out for their runs, families taking their daily walk, and bikers enjoying the mild weather. From this vantage point, there is an odd sense of normalcy, as if it were just another weekday in Minneapolis.
But we all know that is not the case. Our community’s urgent response to the emerging realities created by the Covid19 pandemic has closed schools, restaurants, recreation centers, and public events. We are working together to slow the spread of the virus. Our lives are temporarily changed in ways we are only just beginning to understand. For those of us with kids, we’re adjusting to an extended stretch of time at home and outside together.
As with most organizations, Minneapolis Parks Foundation staff has begun working from home with each of us taking turns going into the office to collect mail, check messages, and conduct our work. We are making contingency plans for events and group activities that were scheduled for the spring – and we’ll keep you updated as things evolve. The MN Department of Health is providing regularly updated guidelines for all Minnesotans, which we’ll follow.
During our staff check-in call to start this week, we discussed the critical importance that our park system will play in the coming weeks as people get outside for fresh air and exercise. Because Minneapolis is a city where nearly every resident lives within a 10-minute walk of a park and our system of parks and trails connects the whole city, we have ample space to be outside, see neighbors (from a safe distance), and breathe some fresh air.
We have tremendous appreciation for the staff and leadership at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and City of Minneapolis who are working to strike the right balance to maintain services while protecting everyone involved from further exposure. As of now, our outdoor neighborhood, regional, and state parks and trails remain open (buildings are closed, and many public services are suspended). For updates, please visit Minneapolis Parks, and MN State Parks for the most current information.
I know that every one of us values our parks for personal and communal reasons. I invite you to share with us your stories about how you have found health and wellness in them, along with the unique places that you’ve discovered or rediscovered in this time. We are a social species – even introverts crave community after awhile. As you are out enjoying the parks, share a “hello” with a fellow park user – it makes the 6 feet feel like less than a mile! – and please take a moment to take a picture and share with us places and spaces you discover.
You can send stories and images you’d like to share to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. We will continue to use our website and social media tools to share information relevant to the parks system and celebrate the role parks continue to play in our community.
I look forward to the day in the near future when we once again fill our parks with festivals, youth sports, and family picnics that help make Minneapolis the city we all love. Parks can be a kind of medicine in these challenging times. Be well.