NewsPinellas County


Park Rangers: 'Public is doing a great job' social distancing during busy park weekends

Posted at 5:18 PM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-30 17:51:28-04

SAFETY HARBOR, Fla. -- It was a busy weekend for Tampa Bay area parks as people got out of their homes and immersed themselves in sunshine and nature.

Even on a Monday, Philippe Park in Safety Harbor is seeing its fair share of visitors.

“You get outside, you feel good, you’re getting fresh air and sunshine,” said Debbie Vouris, as she she was out with her friends in the park.

They used to be mall walkers until the coronavirus shut nearly everything down. Now, they get their 10,000 steps in at the park before lounging by the bay.

“I had not been to this park in maybe 25 years when my son was four years old. And now, I’ve been here like six days in a row and absolutely love it. It’s beautiful,” she said.

Over the weekend, parks were packed with people looking to escape their homes causing concern among some folks worried others weren’t following social distancing.

“We do have a couple occasions where the park rangers do have to ask people for compliance for the mandated 6-foot social distancing,” said Scott Coulter, the Park Preserve Supervisor for not only Philippe, but John Chestnut Park and Brooker Creek Preserve.

He says most folks are following the rules. Rangers are also disinfecting benches, picnic tables and other surfaces every hour or so.

“I’ve seen they roped off the playgrounds, they roped off the grills,” said Diane Kurish, a friend of Debbie Vouris. “I think they’re trying to do what they can to discourage any groups coming together.”

The National Recreation and Park Associationsays If you’re on a trail, you should share it with others. Let that person know that you’re coming up towards them. That way, either you or that person can move to the side and remain six feet apart.

Coulter says if you see large gatherings or people not following CDC rules, let a park ranger know. For now, he says parks will remain open until further advised.