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COVID-19 and Winter Recreation

We made it through the summer and most of the fall, but unfortunately COVID is turning our state upside down again. Wednesday’s news from Governor Walz was hard to swallow, but it is our reality at this moment in time. The silver lining in this cloud is that outdoor recreation is still  encouraged and most of the restrictions did not hit our industry too hard. If you deal with youth sports, we feel for you and the impact that the latest executive order is having on you.

There are two big takeaways from Executive Order 20-99. First, the COVID-19 Prevention Guidance for Youth and Student Programs removed youth sports from its language. What does this mean? It means that our parks and recreation programs can still operate under the proper guidance and with the proper protocols in place for the next four weeks. Some of those key protocols are limiting indoor and outdoor programs to 15 people. We must maintain proper social distancing between individuals from separate households and be sure to promote proper health etiquette.

Secondly, facilities that provide winter recreation are not only allowed to open and operate but are encouraged to do so under the proper guidance over the next four weeks. We have all seen an increase in traffic at our facilities, and sales and availability of winter recreation equipment is signifying that this usage increase is going to continue through the winter. We encourage you to familiarize yourself with the current Outdoor Recreation Guidelines provided by the Department of Natural Resources. We encourage you to evaluate your rental facilities and their procedures. This is one of the negative impacts that the new executive order has on our industry. We are being asked to close down facilities that encourage social gathering, and this will more than likely mean that if you have any indoor reservable facilities, they will need to be closed over the next four weeks.

Things look bleak right now. It is no secret. We are fortunate that as parks and recreation professionals we are tasked with providing an outlet for people. It is amazing to see the creativity, ingenuity, and perseverance from you in these times. Stay strong, stay focused, and stay positive. As Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Let’s help everyone get through this and make sure it is done.