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Some Bend parents asking BPRD to reopen playgrounds

Park district says they have to follow state public health guidelines

(Update: Adding video, quotes from BPRD, full statement from parents)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Some Bend parents are calling on the Bend Park and Recreation District to reopen playgrounds and parks for their children, but BPRD officials said Wednesday that decision ultimately comes from the state level.

NewsChannel 21 spoke with park district spokeswoman Julie Brown Wednesday. She said playgrounds will remain closed following Gov. Kate Brown's guidelines, even if some amenities and activities are scheduled to reopen in Phase 2.

“The information that has come from the governor’s office and the Oregon Health Authority really speaks to the concerns about the shared equipment and the touching of the surfaces, in particular on playground equipment," Brown said.

She said throughout the pandemic, most of Bend Park & Rec's open spaces and trails have been accessible to the public. The district recently reopened skate parks, and pickleball and tennis courts.

It is also scheduled to resume fitness activities at Juniper Swim and Fitness Center starting next Monday.

“I would just really encourage people to continue making use of those open spaces that don’t require sharing or touching equipment at this point," Brown said. "That's the best way to be in alignment with the continued guidance we’re getting from the state level.”

On its website, BPRD cites Gov. Kate Brown’s reopening guidelines for outdoor recreation, which say day-use areas that are prone to attracting crowds (including but not limited to playgrounds, picnic shelters/structures, water parks and pools, sports courts for contact sports like basketball) and overnight use areas remain closed.

A group of Bend parents sent the following statement to NewsChannel 21 Wednesday, saying they have been patiently waiting for playgrounds to reopen.

"In a local Facebook group that I am a part of, a parent had reached out asking when local playgrounds would be opening. I probably speak for most parents that aside from schools and day cares, the parks are on a list of places we have been anxiously waiting to open up. A couple of Mothers and Grandmothers from that group started a private message wanting to set up a day/time to meet up and have our kids play. I was excited to be meeting new faces who share the same thoughts as myself and eager to let my child play with others.

"It’s been daily that we drive by 'The Pirate Park' (Columbia Park) and I have to try and explain to my 3 year old that the park is still taped off and closed. Which then comes the frustration and tears.

"As an adult this is hard, I can’t even fathom what a young child is trying to process and feel. We can’t expect children to understand what that means.

"he mental health of our children who frequent the local parks has been compromised greatly because of the lockdowns. There are children who thrive and survive off of social interaction. There are parents who stay connected by attending play dates. Grandparents who take their grandchildren to the playgrounds. We all have our reasons why.

"Yes, most are capable of spending time with their children at home and talking with each other via Facetime. It’s what we have been doing since April. But it’s the children who are ultimately suffering.

"Children need to play, parents need to connect. Parks and playgrounds should be open for this to take place if gatherings elsewhere are occurring. We’ve been patiently waiting for the all-clear to play, yet receiving no answers.

"With Phase 2 allowing groups of 50 indoors, 100 outdoors and the recent crowds of hundreds gathering in the streets (for which reasons we fully stand behind) we feel the opening of playgrounds should absolutely be addressed.

"We are in no way considering this a 'protest' or looking to take away from what is going on. We are not trying to use what is occurring globally to an advantage of any sort and we want to make sure that is loud and clear.

"And rather than demand they open, we are asking that they see the toll it’s been taking on our children to have an area that some use daily taken away from them. We simply just want our children who are the most mentally vulnerable, to feel as normal as possible during this tragic, uncertain time.

"Just a group of Bend Parents and Grandparents who are trying desperately to maintain “a new normal” for our children. If crowds can gather, kids should be able to play, and our parks should be open."

The statement was sent by Bend parents Jessica Rosten, Jen Kircher, Debi Crawford and Karen Hamilton.

Crawford said the group plans to gather at Larkspur Park, next to the Bend Senior Center, next Wednesday to "peacefully request to open playgrounds."

Signs are being placed at sport courts to inform park users of temporary use rules. A park locator is available with details about park amenities and locations.

Information about all parks, trails and recreation offerings are at

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Rhea Panela

Rhea Panela is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Rhea here.


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