Parks provide outlet amid virus shutdown

Melanie Ferris’ daughter, Vivian, and family dog, Jack, and her play with bull mastiff Celtic at Lake of the Isles dog park on March 17. Photo by Andrew Hazzard

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board closed its community recreation centers on Tuesday, March 17, in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, but the city parks have become a place of refuge for residents, a place they can relax and exercise amid the many closures.

“This is where we can go,” said Susan McGuire as she and a friend walked around Lake of Isles.

Parks and trails throughout Minneapolis remain open to the public, and the MPRB is encouraging residents to go outside to relax and exercise while maintaining social distancing practices by keeping at least 6 feet of space from others when encountering other park users.

“There’s a lot of open space out there and it’s a great place to be,” MPRB spokesperson Dawn Sommers said.

McGuire and her friend Kristine Smyth met years ago while living in Southwest Minneapolis, and the two walk around Lake of the Isles once a week. The morning of March 17, they greeted each other with elbow bumps instead of hugs. With cafes, restaurants and gyms closed, the parks are the place they can meet friends and socialize in the open air at a safe distance.

Susan McGuire and Kristine Smyth took their weekly walk around Lake of the Isles on Tuesday, March 17. City parks are some of the only gathering spaces available to people amid the coronavirus pandemic and related shutdowns. Photo by Andrew Hazzard

Tangletown resident Melanie Ferris brought her two children and dog Jack to the Lake of the Isles dog park March 17 to get some exercise and play. She said she’s very supportive of actions the state and city are taking to promote social distancing and is glad the parks are still available.

“Everything they can do to slow the spread is good, and I appreciate that we can still be outside,” Ferris said.

The nonprofit Loppet Foundation has closed The Trailhead at Theodore Wirth Park, but is keeping its cross country ski trails open to the public and will continue grooming trails through the weekend, according to marketing and sales director Jon Friedell.

“We’re hoping people will still get out and ski and enjoy the outdoors,” Friedell said.

The Loppet Foundation and the International Ski Federation had to cancel the 2020 Coop FIS Cross Country World Cup races scheduled to take place at Theodore Wirth Park March 14-17 due to the coronavirus.