As countries begin to open and lockdown measures ease, many people are reconsidering the value of green spaces and open public areas. Traveling is still limited, and though many are eager to use their cars and go on a road trip, the threat of infection is always a possibility. Even a visit to the nearest park or recreational area could be dangerous, and many are considering how these places will change when measures such as social distancing and constant sanitation are in place.
Some countries have closed popular tourist attractions but have kept public parks open, mainly in large cities like London, where many residents have limited access to green spaces. But in other countries, the closure of public parks has made people and their governments reconsider how these spaces maintain public health and mental wellness.
COVID-19 Reveals Lack of Green Spaces
One of the significant areas where some change could be immediately acted upon is the lack of green areas in some neighborhoods. Most of these are often in urban and marginalized places, where dense populations and limited spaces often dictate the size of green public spaces.
It highlighted the limitations in these communities, and how the government could promote better health by simply creating more spaces where people could do outdoor activities. It also showed how the urban poor were limited not only in opportunities but also in public spaces where they could maintain their health.
The Probable Impact
In the United States, the National Parks and Recreation Association (NRPA) is reviewing the response plans. Part of this is making sure there are enough disinfectants and hand-sanitizing areas, and also the proper dissemination of information to the public.
But it’s not only the public that needs to be informed and wear protective gear. Park officials and maintenance crews need to follow strict guidelines and procedures to ensure the health of the public is protected. Whether they maintain the park’s aesthetics and cleanliness with industrial leaf vacuums and lawnmowers or empty the rubbish bins, they can control how the virus is spread and people’s behavior in open spaces. Ultimately, it all boils down to how they manage their discourse with the public.
After the Pandemic
Though the total result may not be apparent yet, countries are beginning to contemplate and reimagine public spaces after the pandemic. Fewer people in larger areas, benches and seating areas a meter apart, the presence of handwashing stations, and the designated areas for entrances and exits. All of these are meant to control the spread of infection, especially if COVID19 is here to stay.
Ultimately, the new normal in many countries will not be as it was before, especially when it comes to public spaces. Though many people now see the value of the outdoors and green areas in maintaining health and mental wellness, it is still up to governments and local parks and recreation officials to make such places safe. Many need to review how these spaces should be maintained so that the general public’s health will be at the forefront, whether or not COVID-19 will still be present.