City and county parks, playgrounds closing to prevent large gatherings

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Citizens in many areas around the state will have to find a place other than local parks and playgrounds for recreational activity in the coming weeks.

The Kanawha County Parks and Recreation District (KCPRD) and the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District (GHPRD) are the latest bodies to close those local areas in hopes of preventing large gatherings during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Coonskin, Meadowood, and Pioneer parks are among the list of closures announced Sunday evening by KCPRD.

“The health care experts are warning that the only tool we have at this time is distancing. So why in the world would you open up an area where people are used to congregating together,” Kanawha County Commission President W. Kent Carper told MetroNews about his decision.

Kent Carper

“Unfortunately, the park has playgrounds, the park has restrooms, the park has the type of things that cause people to congregate together.”

Carper said his decision was based on the recommendations by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) with banning large gatherings and social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.

He said neighborhoods will have to be creative and cautious with outdoor activity.

“My little grandchildren did a bear hunt in their neighborhood, putting teddy bears in the windows,” he said. “They walked around sensibly at a reasonable distance. That’s what the healthcare professionals say.”

As of Monday morning, 29 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in Kanawha County.

In Cabell County, similar steps are being taken in the Huntington area. With recommendations from the CDC guidelines and park’s board, the GHPRD has decided to close down some areas of its most popular parks.

Kathy McKenna, the GHPRD Interim Executive Director told MetroNews that the group’s plan of action is to close off parking lots and close off gates to facilities that they are able to, including the gates to Rotary Park, McClelland Park, Altizer Park and the Ritter Park Amphitheater beginning Tuesday.

The parking lots at Ritter Park will also be closed.

She said the walking track at Ritter Park and Memorial Park will remain open but she is encouraging people to follow the CDC guidelines with social distancing.

“As the weather keeps breaking and everybody is tired of being stuck at home, everybody wants to get outside and we understand that,” McKenna said.

“But they just seem to be gathering in larger groups than is recommended. We just have to keep making these decisions day in and day out about what to do next.”

McKenna encouraged citizens of the area to get out but be safe.

“Get out, walk around your own community, walk around your neighborhood. We understand that people want to be outside and they want to get exercise. It is important for their wellbeing at this time,” she said.

“Just be safe and don’t gather in groups outside of your family household and maintain that six-foot social distancing requirement.”

Nearby Huntington, the Village of Barboursville announced the last the closure of all city parks and playgrounds. More closures in the state include the City of Charleston playgrounds, Hurricane parks and playgrounds, Cabell County Schools playgrounds, and the City of Wheeling playgrounds, parks and recreational programs.

In a Facebook post, Hurricane Mayor Scott Edwards explained the decision in trying to flatten the curve, “Over the past two weeks, people have not followed rules and suggestions of what not to do, so therefore, they must be closed.

“The stay-at-home order we are under is not a vacation and yet so many people seem to be treating it as such instead of understanding the importance of this needed action.”

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