Photo: Chris Konieczny, KP News

The public continues to enjoy its parks, sometimes too much.

Key Pen Parks has taken measures to keep community spaces safe and sanitary.

Playgrounds and shelters have been closed at all Key Pen Parks facilities. Home Park has been shut down entirely for the duration of quarantine measures. Paths and walking areas remain open at Gateway Park, 360 Trails, Volunteer Park, Key Central Forest, Rocky Creek Conservation Area and Maple Hollow. While large gatherings are discouraged, individuals and family groups are welcome to make use of the park spaces that remain available.

Restrooms have been closed at Maple Hollow and Home Park but remain open at Volunteer Park and Gateway under a more intense cleaning schedule. 

“We recognize that on the KP, there’s not a lot of places to use the bathroom that are open right now,” Key Pen Parks Executive Director Scott Gallacher said.

The timeline of the splash pad at Gateway Park has also been affected. Construction has continued through the quarantine under social distancing measures, but due to reduced staffing the target date for opening is postponed indefinitely.

Most Key Pen Parks employees are now working from home, using park signage and social media to communicate guidelines to park-goers. 

Many KP residents are finding ways to enjoy the sunny skies in accordance with restrictions. “There might be a fair number of cars in the parking lot, but when people are on the trails, they dissipate quite well. Hopefully they can get that mental health break that they need,” Gallacher said, adding that the open spaces of Key Pen Parks are providing a much-needed outlet for KP residents cooped up at home. Park usage is not being strictly regulated, but park-goers are encouraged to practice social distancing and use their best judgment. 

“Key Pen Parks is not an enforcement agency,” Gallacher said. “The public has to understand that they’re the ones who have to help us with regards to flattening this curve out. They’re the ones who have to be responsible for their actions.”

Maintenance activities have also continued, addressing the actions of community members who have chosen less productive ways to spend their free time. 

“We’ve had some vandalism happen during this time. That’s what is frustrating, is that there’s still bad things happening from bad people: graffiti, destruction of property, garbage, that kind of thing,” Gallacher said.

Although Key Pen Parks will not feel the direct impact of the virus that many organizations will, canceled rentals and reservations have made a dent in their immediate finances. More concerning, however, is the long-term economic impact. As an organization that relies on property and sales taxes, Key Pen Parks could be feeling the effects of the pandemic well into the future. 

“When there was the Great Recession, that impacted us not in 2008, but in 2011, 2012 and 2013. It lagged,” Gallacher said. He is already reworking parks finances where he can. “I’m looking at our 2020 budget and revising it to decrease our expenses and decrease our revenue, because this will have an impact,” he said.

All Key Pen Parks events and gatherings have been canceled through May 4. Several activities could potentially restart afterwards, including KP Little League, which hopes to begin practice May 11, but planning depends on further announcements from state and federal authorities. Facilities may resume operation gradually as guidelines change. “We’re going to refer to the guidelines of the governor, the health department and the CDC on things like the playgrounds,” Gallacher said. “Everything was turned off with a light switch; now things are going to come back up on a dimmer switch.”

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