The Geauga Park District is reopening and restarting programming across its 25 parks, albeit with a few caveats.
District Executive Director John Oros said playgrounds and pavilions were opened last week after guidelines were relaxed by the state.
Though trails have been open, park facilities were off limits during the past three months under state guidelines to control the spread of COVID-19.
Using the park facilities will continue to be a challenge, Mr. Oros said, since the state’s rule limiting gatherings is still in place.
This limit impacts programming, which has required naturalists to get creative and retool the nature classes and hikes that they typically conduct, Mr. Oros said.
“Our naturalist is trying to re-engage with public programming. Groups of 10 or fewer is where we’re at until July 1, when we’ll revisit it,” he said.
“We started back up with some programming last weekend and our plan is to continue,” explained John Kolar, chief naturalist with the district. “But we are limiting the amount of people in each program to follow the governor’s regulation of 10 people.” With smaller program numbers, he said, the district will be following social distancing guidelines.
Though staff and volunteers will wear masks, he said, it will not be a requirement for participants.
Programming includes various hikes around the park, like traditional dragonfly or bird hikes, as well as some virtual offerings that are being developed for this year. Mr. Kolar said that, traditionally, a hike consists of 30 to 40 people. Instead of doing that, naturalists now lead several smaller versions of those hikes so that as many people can experience the walk as safely as possible.
Mr. Kolar explained that he and his fellow naturalists are adapting some of the educational programs they’ve conducted in the past to fit a virtual format, such as an upcoming astronomy viewing session that will now take place over WebEx.
“With WebEx, we can play that PowerPoint right on their computer at their homes,” he added. “That’s our intention for our wildflower folklore one, one of our naturalists will be doing a PowerPoint via WebEx and then as a follow up, she will be putting signs up along a trail.”
An updated list of programs can be found on the park district’s website.
He also said that the district is looking to reopen the high ropes at Claridon Woodlands towards the end of June or beginning of July, just as soon as the course can be inspected and a new zipline installed. Because of how close bodies get to each other on the ropes course, Mr. Kolar said, anyone who wants to traverse it will be required to wear a mask. He hopes that the Boulder Wall at Claridon Woodlands will be up soon as well.
“For the month of June, we’re holding off on events,” Mr. Kolar said. “We can’t do anything at the moment, but we have nights out in the park like movie nights as well as concert series that we traditionally do, but we’re kind of in a standstill right now.”
Mr. Kolar said getting back to nature is good for residents. “Nature is healing not only for the body, but the spirit as well. We want people to be safe out there and be smart, and we’re going to proceed with being very careful.”