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Bend Park & Rec, Redmond reopen playgrounds under new state Phase 2 guidance

(Update: Adding video: comments from BPRD, park visitors)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Bend Park and Recreation District and the city of Redmond announced Tuesday their park playgrounds were reopening immediately, after Gov. Kate Brown's office provided revised Phase 2 approval of their use.

The Bend park district said it had been working with park and rec agencies across the state to confirm approval from state authorities to reopen playgrounds, after word was announced late Monday by a regional representative of the governor's office.

NewsChannel 21 spoke with Julie Brown with the Bend park district to hear what the district is doing to reopen their playgrounds.

"We started working with other park and rec agencies across the state to get additional information and guidance from the governor's office," Brown said. "We're really excited to get the good news. This has been long-awaited by a lot of families in the community."

She said park visitors are responsible for keeping the playgrounds a safe environment for all members of the community.

"Our staff are already unlocking the locks in place around swings, for example, and removing markings of closure," Brown said.

BPRD and Redmond said the reopening for playgrounds comes under these temporary rules:

  • Playground visitors are encouraged to wash hands before and after visiting a playground
  • Maintain physical distancing of at least six feet
  • Bring hand sanitizer and/or sanitizing wipes for personal use on any surfaces touched.
  • Any individuals who are sick or may have contacted someone with COVID-19 should stay home.

The BPRD announcement said, "Playground equipment will be inspected and closure marking will be removed; however, the amenities will not be sanitized by the park district," the announcement said.

Marina Birchill, a mother of two in Bend, said she has been waiting for the playgrounds to reopen following the announcement indoor recreational facilities and activities were already permitted to do so.

“A lot of parents right now can’t afford indoor facilities, so for the kids of any economic background, to be able to get exercise and play and get fresh air right now is very important, so we’re very excited," Birchill said.

Debi Crawford, a grandmother in Bend, organized a group of other concerned members of the community and sent letters to the governor's office, Mayor Sally Russell, Oregon State Police and the Bend Police Department, asking them to reopen the playgrounds.

She said she feels that her efforts have paid off.

"It was heartbreaking, knowing these parents and their kids couldn’t go out and play, couldn’t go to school, all their social activities have been cut," Crawford said. "Not only that, parents being laid off, causing extra tension in the house. I thought that it was important to try and help step up and get the ball rolling, to get the parks open.”

“We are so happy to be able to reopen playgrounds,” said Michelle Healy, deputy director for BPRD. “We ask families and children can take responsibility and do their best to help keep the playgrounds open and safe for everyone to enjoy.”

Playgrounds are located in more than 40 Bend Park & Recreation District parks and offer a variety of features for children of all ages.

Annie McVay, the Redmond Parks Division manager, said, “We know that kids have been anxious to play so we are excited to reopen the playgrounds and encourage everyone to follow the guidelines for a safe summer.”

Redmond also advised that city parks’ restroom facilities remain closed and drinking fountains are not in service. The city said park users are encouraged to bring their own water bottles and hygiene supplies such as hand sanitizer.

A Central Oregon representative for Gov. Brown's office had informed local officials on Monday that playgrounds are permitted to reopen in Phase 2, under guidelines that are still being crafted.

"Yes, playgrounds can open, and there will be forthcoming guidance on sanitizing your kids before and after," read the email sent out by Annette Liebe, regional solutions coordinator in Bend for Gov. Brown's office.

The Redmond Area Park and Recreation District said it was working with BPRD to get more details as to what the specific guidelines are before they can reopen the playgrounds.

Asked for more details by NewsChannel 21, Liz Merah, press secretary for Governor Brown, responded by email, "Under previous guidance, indoor and outdoor playgrounds were to remain closed in all counties, due to physical distancing and sanitization issues, which could increase the potential for COVID-19 spread.

"However, my understanding is that our office is working with the Oregon Health Authority on updating outdoor recreation FAQs to clarify how outdoor playgrounds can safely reopen in Phase 2 counties. This guidance will be posted at when it’s ready."

The state's outdoor recreation guidelines last updated last Thursday, said organizations were required to "keep day-use areas that are prone to attracting crowds closed (including but not limited to playgrounds, picnic shelters/structures, water parks and pools, and sports courts for contact sports like basketball)."

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Rhea Panela

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


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