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Parks stay open but county bathrooms, city playgrounds close

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY – Visitors are still welcome at a number of local parks despite more amenities closing on Tuesday.

Salisbury Parks and Recreation announced playgrounds will close Tuesday morning, and in the afternoon Rowan County Parks and Recreation announced restroom facilities would close, too. The county already closed playgrounds and Salisbury has already closed its recreation centers in response to the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state.

Rowan County now has six confirmed cases of the respiratory infection.

County Parks and Facilities Director Don Bringle said shelter reservations have been suspended in keeping with Gov. Roy Cooper’s order against mass gatherings of 50 or more people. Bringle said it is difficult for county staff to keep restrooms clean to the level needed during the outbreak.

But people are still visiting the parks and getting outside. Social distancing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control do not prohibit people from being outside, and are primarily aimed at preventing spread that happens within large groups of people in close contact with each other.

Salisbury Parks and Rec Director Nick Aceves said parks and recreation professionals across the state are tight knit. After conversations with other directors and the county decision to close playgrounds, the department decided to follow suit.

“We hate to do it. As recreation professionals we’re all about opportunities for people,” Aceves said. “This would be an ideal time for us.”

Aceves said the story this would be different if it were a snow day and the department could offer other opportunities, but coronavirus shutdowns are not snow days. The virus and its associated disease are different from anything anyone has seen before, and the increasing popularity at playgrounds was exceeding recommended gathering limits, Aceves said.

“As long as people follow the guidelines for social distancing, the parks can be used,” Aceves said. “Unfortunately ball practices, etc., we’ve had to cancel all that stuff.”

Aceves said city trails and greenways are still open.

Meanwhile, golf, a sport and means to get outside that has no trouble placing players far apart from each other, is seeing a normal amount of players when many other businesses are struggling or have been ordered to close by the state to limit spread of the virus. Several local courses reported experiencing normal turnout this time of year despite the outbreak.

McCanless Pro Scott Perry said the number of holes being played is normal. While some people are staying away, others are coming out to play because they are not at work or in school like they normally would be, Perry said.

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