County reopens some of its outdoor amenities
Playgrounds still closed
Montgomery County has reopened some of its park amenities, after Gov. Larry Hogan broadened the list of permitted outdoor activities.
In the county, tennis courts, campgrounds and a driving range can now be used.
Many public gathering spots in Maryland have been limited or closed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
But Hogan has said that some restrictions can be eased as the state shows signs of improvement, as long as visitors and participants practice social distancing guidelines, such as not forming groups and standing apart from other people.
In a press release on Wednesday, Hogan said he was amending a stay-at-home order to allow individual and small group sports and activities. They include:
• outdoor fitness instruction
• recreational fishing, hunting, shooting and archery
• recreational boating
• horseback riding
The press release said closed functions at state parks would be reopened, including state beaches for walking and exercise.
Local governments may take similar actions.
On Thursday, Montgomery Parks announced that it was reopening:
• All outdoor tennis courts
• Campgrounds at Little Bennett Park and Cabin John Regional Park
• A driving range at South Germantown Recreational Park
• Archery ranges at South Germantown Recreational Park and Rock Creek Regional Park
The county also was removing restrictions from recreational boating and fishing.
Tennis courts reopened on Thursday. Other amenities and programs would take a few days, the press release said.
The county’s playgrounds, basketball courts and athletic fields will stay closed, along with indoor park facilities.
Parks and trails are still open from sunrise to sunset for walking, hiking and biking. The press release says segments of Sligo Creek Parkway, Beach Drive and Little Falls Parkway are closed to vehicle traffic Friday morning to Sunday evening, to allow for recreational use.
Montgomery Parks is urging park visitors to not gather in groups of more than 10 people, stay at least six feet from other people, wash hands often, wear a cloth face mask and cover coughs and sneezes.
Playgrounds are among the park amenities the state said may reopen, but Dr. Travis Gayles, the county’s health officer, on Thursday said the county won’t reopen playgrounds for now.
“They were challenging in terms of maintaining social distancing and preventing congregation in those areas,” he told the Montgomery County Council during its meeting.
Gayles said he recognizes that people have been cooped up at home and not everyone has access to tennis courts or golf courses.
“We want to make sure we’re taking an equitable look at creating resources for everyone to be able to have an opportunity to enjoy some type of recreation and some type of physical activity,” he said, adding that he asked parks employees to look at other options.
Council Vice President Tom Hucker asked Dr. Earl Stoddard, executive director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, if there was dangerous mixed messaging in the state’s decision to close schools for the rest of the academic year but open recreational activities.
Stoddard said that if restrictions are too rigid, people can get tired of following them, as well — the two have to be balanced. He said officials will monitor and make sure that if there’s an uptick in “risky behaviors,” the county puts certain restrictions in place again.
Playgrounds are a concern because children touch the play equipment and are not great at physically distancing, Stoddard said.
“We’ve closed those down because we saw them become magnets for poor social distancing,” he said.