Park Board to close playgrounds, courts and fields

The Minneapolis Park Board will close playgrounds, skateparks, athletic fields and basketball and tennis courts to prevent gatherings during the coronavirus. A sign at Park Siding Park in Cedar-Isles-Dean advised families to limit play and wash their hands.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will close playgrounds, block basketball hoops and take down tennis nets to discourage congregating in city parks during the coronavirus pandemic. 

By May 1, the MPRB will close off playgrounds, skateparks and athletic fields, block or remove basketball hoops and take down tennis court nets. 

“It’s not an easy decision, it’s not a happy decision, I know it’s not going to be a popular decision, but we feel at this time, it’s the best policy decision we can make,” Park Board President Jono Cowgill said. 

The decision comes from the guidance of the Minneapolis Health Department and is based on the observations of MPRB employees who have been out in the parks promoting social distancing in ambassador roles, Cowgill said. 

The MPRB has made several adjustments during the spread of the coronavirus, including opening around 20 miles of parkway roads to pedestrians to promote social distancing. While many signs had been placed at courts, fields and playgrounds discouraging group play, officials felt there were too many cases of people ignoring the directives. 

“Unfortunately the plea with the public has not worked as well as we hoped it would,” MPRB spokesperson Dawn Sommers said. 

With recreation centers currently closed, many of those staff members have been working as park ambassadors and have been out in the parks promoting social distancing and observing usage. What they reported was too much congregating around gathering spaces like fields, courts and skateparks, Sommers said. The park staff originally planned to allow tennis, but will now take down nets as staffers have continued to see doubles play. 

“For some people they might be seeing one activity more than another, but we’re seeing it throughout the system,” Sommers said.  

Exactly how the closures will be implemented and if basketball hoops will be taken down or blocked is still to be determined, but the areas will likely be taped off. Sommers said the MPRB will not be using fencing or having Park Police enforce the closures with citations. 

“It’s really still about education,” she said. 

While most activities are blocked, MPRB golf courses are newly opened due to a change in Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order. Sommers said the Park Board feels it can successfully limit group sizes to four and eliminate touch points to make the game conducive with social distancing. 

The MPRB is working to organize summer programming for youth that will allow for social distancing while exploring the outdoors.