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Portland parks will deploy ‘park greeters’ to educate visitors about social distancing, closures

With sunny weather, some parks have too many people to maintain social distancing.
Credit: Oregonian/OregonLive
Westmoreland Park

PORTLAND, Oregon — Following reports of large crowds at local parks over the weekend, the Portland Parks and Recreation department has announced it will deploy “park greeters” to help enforce social distancing amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“Park greeters will educate the public about how to use their parks system safely and to explain what facilities are open or closed,” while maintaining proper social distance themselves, Portland park officials said in a news release.

The parks department said greeters will show up at park sites starting this week.

When Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order banning all nonessential travel, she allowed some parks to remain open, as long as people maintained six feet of social distance. But as sunny spring weather has tempted people outside, some parks in Portland have become too crowded to safely maintain that kind of distance.

The Portland parks department had previously closed parking lots and roads within some of the city’s more popular parks, and now it will redeploy some park employees as park greeters, to help ensure the governor’s mandate.

Gov. Brown’s order also shut down all playgrounds, sports courts and sports fields in Oregon, though some people have continued to use those facilities.

The department has responded by removing tennis nets, flipping over soccer goal posts and taping off playgrounds at some parks, officials said. They’ve also turned off drinking fountains, decorative fountains and splash pads. Some public restrooms are also closed.

Aside from social distancing, the department also urged people to wash their hands frequently and wear face masks when outside. Hikers should announce their presence to others, and step aside to let others pass where there’s enough room to do so. Anyone who is ill should not visit parks facilities, the department said.

Local officials have hesitated to consider closing Portland’s public parks during the coronavirus outbreak, noting how important they are as a way to stay sane during a difficult time.

“Going to a park and having an open space is pretty crucial to maintain mental and physical health right now, because there’s not a lot of other options,” Portland Parks and Recreation spokesman Mark Ross said. “The onus is on the public to adhere to these public health guidelines.”

Now, people will get a friendly reminder on how to do that.

This article was originally published by the Oregonian/OregonLive, one of more than a dozen news organizations throughout the state sharing their coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak to help inform Oregonians about this evolving health issue.

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