Steve Beaman, superintendent of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, says as the weather improves residents can expect local playground equipment and public restrooms at the city's parks to be closed in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

But he's hopeful that they're still a long way from closing public parks altogether.

Following a meeting of the parks board Wednesday evening, Beaman said they will adhere to recommendations made by the Indiana Park and Recreation Association — and they're adhering to recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the CDC is recommending people not gather in groups of 10 or more, it has not directed city parks to close completely to the public, although some Hoosier cities already have taken that step.

“My hope is that, as we see warmer weather, people will still be able to get out and walk, use the parks,” Beaman said, “as long as they are smart and keep a good distance from one another.

“If you're going to be in the parks, use common sense. Don't gather in large crowds,” he said, adding that failure to adhere to that advice could lead to the closure of the parks altogether.

Protecting people from the spread of the virus from the surfaces of playground equipment and bathrooms — the virus is said to last on surfaces up to three days — is much harder, however, which is why Beaman said local residents should likely prepare for the closure of those things sooner rather than later.

“While the playgrounds are, currently, still open, I recommend you not use them,” he said.

The playground equipment, he said, would be nearly impossible to keep clean given limited staff and the general size of such apparatus.

The bathrooms, he said, would be a similar obstacle to tackle.

“As it gets warmer, people will get out,” he said. “I can clean, but five minutes later, after two car loads, it won't matter anymore.”

And while he knows a closure of the playgrounds and bathrooms — even the public parks themselves, if it comes to that — would be bothersome, he said the “inconvenience would be minimal” when compared to the sickness and death experienced in areas with heavy COVID-19.

“I know some people see these as knee-jerk reactions, but they are not,” he said. “We have to look at the health and welfare of our residents and act accordingly.”

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