Easing Restrictions

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert Allows City Parks to Reopen


Kalei Renner

Staying Healthy: At Zorinsky lake, a sign towards the entrance of the lake shows a list of social distancing guidelines in both the Spanish and English language. In order to be practicing proper social distancing, lake users must avoid gathering in groups of 10, using the public playground and being in another person’s 6 feet of space.

On Friday, April 24, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert announced in a press conference that city parks would be allowed to reopen as long as people were able to abide by social distancing guidelines, including limiting groups to 10 and maintaining 6 feet of space between other groups of people in the same group. Parks were able to open almost a week earlier than intended on Saturday, April 25, in Sarpy and Douglas counties. The types of parks allowed to reopen included pavilions, sports courts, public lakes, dog parks and parking lots.
“Honestly, reopening city parks was a smart thing to do because people get bored of just using walking trails,” sophomore Caroline Lewis said. “Also, from personal experience, I haven’t really seen large groups of people hanging out at parks since they’ve reopened. Everyone has been doing a good job practicing social distancing.”

Kalei Renner
Temporarily Closed: All neighborhood playgrounds have been temporarily closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “It makes sense why playgrounds are closed,” Caroline Lewis (22) said. “Multiple kids can touch the contaminated playgrounds and bring the disease home to their families.” Playgrounds, along with sporting complexes, have been closed since April 3.

Even though city parks were reopened to the public, playgrounds and athletic fields in city parks are still off-limits to the public\; they have been unavailable to the public since April 3. According to Mayor Stothert, a few children shooting hoops in a park is fine, but large team gatherings should not be happening. For this reason, all ballfields and sports complexes are closed.
“I feel like it’s a good thing that playgrounds in parks are closed down because they are played on by many people in a day,” Lewis said. “Knowing that COVID-19 can stay on surfaces for multiple days is scary\; it only makes sense for playgrounds to be closed to help stop the spread of the disease.”
While city parks were closed, walking trails were and still are open to the public. Mr. Bryce Brunswig, a Cross Country and Track & Field Coach, ventures to a state park or local trail about once a week. Although he noticed that walking trails were more populated than usual during the duration of city parks closures, he did not come across anyone abusing social distancing guidelines.
“In my personal experience and in what I’ve observed, I have not seen people abusing this privilege (walking trails being open),” Mr. Brunswig said. “With crowded trails, there might be times when people have to come within 6 feet of one another, but normally this is very brief, and people are making sure that they aren’t coughing or sneezing on someone else.”
While active trail and park users have noticed walking trails and city parks being more crowded than usual, people are making sure to practice proper social distancing guidelines. Mayor Stothert’s decision to open city parks one week earlier than intended proves this statement. For more updates on how Omaha is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, go to the City of Omaha, Nebraska’s website.