The chairs of the PAPREN Parks & Green Space Work Group recently published a commentary about keeping these places open during the COVID-19 pandemic to support physical activity. The authors made the case and offered short- and long-term recommendations. We asked lead author Sandy Slater why she and co-chairs Jeanette Gustat and Rich Christiana wrote the commentary and what they’re working on now. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
What inspired you and your co-chairs to write the commentary?
We were brainstorming ideas for PAPREN Parks & Green Space Work Group projects. We started talking about COVID-19 and parks in our respective states. The guidelines varied a lot across just these states, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. We wanted to advocate for one consistent, state-level plan or guideline to keep parks open and why. We saw the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notice about the special supplement and thought it would be a good outlet for our commentary.
What recommendation resonates most for you personally?
I would say our recommendation for keeping parks, green spaces, and trails open. Visiting local parks and trails to hike and spend time quality time together helped my family and I cope with the restrictions when my home state of Wisconsin was under a safer at home order back in March and April. It provided us with a much needed change of scene from our house. It really helped both our physical and mental health.
What is your next step after publishing this commentary?
The essay lays the groundwork for a current PAPREN Parks & Green Space Work Group research study. It’s a policy scan of all available state-level guidelines. We specifically look for restrictions to physical activity and community spaces to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In addition, we will identify variations in how governments supported or restricted physical activity opportunities as part of the assessment. We plan to use this information to identify opportunities if shelter-in-place orders are reinstated.
What groups in addition to researchers would you like to engage in the Parks & Green Space Work Group going forward?
The Work Group is a good mix of academics and practitioners. For example, PlayCore and GP Red already participate. We also have good representation from local park and recreation departments around the US. Other groups we hope to involve include the National Recreation and Park Association, the National Park Service, the Trust for Public Land, and America Walks.
What upcoming events do you think PAPREN members and others might be interested in?
The 2020 SHIFT Summit will take place virtually October 14-16. This year’s theme is “Healthy by Nature: Equity, Access, and the Mental Health Benefits of Time Outside”.
CITATION: Slater SJ, Christiana RW, Gustat J. Recommendations for Keeping Parks and Green Space Accessible for Mental and Physical Health During COVID-19 and Other Pandemics. Prev Chronic Dis 2020;17:200204. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5888/pcd17.200204.