Maricopa County takes precautions amid COVID-19 pandemic


Maricopa County’s parks, trails and open spaces provide spaces for respite, health, and wellness, but the temporary closures of gyms, entertainment services and recreational opportunities has made open space parks and trails popular spaces to exercise, relieve stress and relax.

“The first weekend the governor’s closure of non-essential services was put in place, our regional parks saw a 26% increase in park attendance,” Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Clint Hickman, District 4, said in a prepared statement.

“Our team quickly realized we had to modify our operating procedures to ensure those visiting the parks would have a safe environment to hike, bike, and recreate in.”

For the past month, the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department relied heavily on guidance and expertise from the Public Health Department for the most up to date information on best practices and safety protocols for the parks amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a press release.

“Exercise is an important component of overall health and wellbeing,” Marcy Flanagan, executive director for Maricopa County Department of Public Health, said in a prepared statement.

“Physical activity also helps support mental health and outdoor activity can be a great way to maintain mental health while practicing physical distancing.”

The parks department has made operational decisions to ensure physical distancing in county parks.

“While the decision to close several popular trailheads, the northern section of Lake Pleasant Regional Park and limit the capacity for each park was a difficult one for us to make, the majority of our park visitors understand why these decisions were made and support our efforts,” R.J. Cardin, Maricopa County parks and recreation department director, said in a prepared statement.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released COVID-19 Guidance for Park Administrators to offer guidance to local, state and national parks managing the resources. The guidelines cover the following safety precautions:

  • Promoting everyday preventive actions;
  • Guidance on maintaining and ensuring restrooms remain open for public visitation;
  • Proper operation, maintenance, and disinfection of swimming pools;
  • Canceling or postponing large events and gatherings;
  • Social-distancing in popular areas of the parks;
  • Postponing or canceling organized activities and sports;
  • Educating staff sick-leave, teleworking policies, and COVID-19 preventative actions; and
  • Reviewing the CDC’s guidance for businesses and employers.

“These guidelines, coupled with the guidance we’ve received from Public Health, provide me comfort in knowing we’ve taken the appropriate recommended actions to promote physical-distancing and safe recreational experiences in the parks,” Mr. Cardin said.

“And, our parks will continue to follow these additional safety precautions until we are informed by the Board or Governor that they are no longer needed.”

The department also reminds the community to continue to:

  • Stay home if they are sick or do not feel well;
  • Visit parks that are close to your home;
  • Prepare to visit. Make sure you bring sunscreen, water, hand-sanitizer, and personal hygiene items;
  • Use physical distancing and maintain at least six feet between individuals in all areas of the park;
  • Stay at least six feet away from others to ensure physical-distancing and help stop the spread of COVID-19; and
  • Move to another area if the trailhead or area of the park they are visiting is crowded.