Twin Cities parks: no amenities, no problem

There are still lots of ways to make use of local green spaces safely.

Sullivan Moran (4) rides his scooter uphill at Powderhorn park in Minneapolis on Tuesday, March 31.

Nur B. Adam

Sullivan Moran (4) rides his scooter uphill at Powderhorn park in Minneapolis on Tuesday, March 31.

Alex Strangman

First there was social distancing. Now amenities are being closed. While making use of the many green spaces in the metro area may have become more difficult, it doesn’t mean there aren’t still plenty of ways to enjoy parks.

Recently, both Minneapolis and St. Paul’s parks and recreation departments closed a list of amenities, limiting recreation opportunities but certainly not eliminating them.

As of May 1, basketball, tennis and volleyball courts in both cities’ park systems were closed, with nets taken down and rims removed or locked. Skate parks and athletic fields are also closed.

According to Dawn Sommers, communications and marketing director for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, people can still get lots of use out of the parks, even without some of the regular amenities.

“You want to toss or kick a ball between somebody who lives in the same household? You don’t need a full-size athletic court to have that happen. We have lots of green spaces that can happen on,” Sommers said.

However, it’s important to keep a few things in mind when visiting some of the many park properties throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul.

All water fountains are currently shut off, so be sure to bring a water bottle. The bathrooms are also closed, so bringing hand sanitizer is recommended as well. If you or people in your home feel sick, stay away from parks, trails and any places where other people are gathering, and observe social distancing guidelines.

In Minneapolis, lakes are still open for boating and fishing. Disc golf courses are still open as well.

Unfortunately for all the swimmers out there — beaches, wading pools and water parks are going to remain closed for the entire summer.

However, a closed beach simply means there’s no lifeguard, swim buoys, swim docks or people cleaning up the beach.

Since it’s impossible to physically block off all beaches, Sommers is sure the more adventurous beachgoers will still hit the sand, but she hopes they do it responsibly.

“Do we anticipate people sitting down [at beaches] and you know, talking with their friends? Most likely, yes. Hopefully, they’ll stay six feet apart,” she said.

The St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department is taking many of the same precautions as Minneapolis, but they’ve gone a step further, closing the Highland Park disc golf course.

Golfers in both Minneapolis and St. Paul can still get a round or two in though because some public golf courses have reopened.

For people looking to shoot hoops or play tennis, the St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department recently launched the Rec Engagement Crew Pilot Program, an effort to reintroduce some public park amenities. According to St. Paul’s recreation services manager Andy Rodriguez, the program will take place at 15 sites around the city, where people can play tennis or basketball while recreation center staff monitor the courts. All other courts will remain closed.

Minneapolis is launching a similar program, but it won’t begin until the stay-at-home order ends, which is scheduled for May 18.

Liz McDonald, St. Paul interim marketing and public relations manager for Parks and Recreation, said that for the most part, people have responded well to the new changes.

“The majority of people understand the situation that the world is in right now and understand that they need to social distance and tend to abide by those guidelines,” she said.

Updated information is available on both Minneapolis and St. Paul’s respective parks and recreation websites.