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Northampton closes school play areas, parks and recreation facilities to public

View Photo Gallery
  • The gates of Frank Newhall Look Memorial Park in Florence were closed and the pedestrian entrance ways blocked with plastic fencing Saturday morning, April 4, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Lee Douchkoff of Westhampton pauses at the closed entrance to Look Park in Florence on Saturday morning, April 4, 2020. The cyclist says that barring bad weather, he rides through the park nearly every day. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Pedestrians pass by the closed entrance to Look Park on North Main Street in Florence on Saturday morning, April 4, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Cyclists ride by a closed pedestrian entrance to Look Park in Florence on Saturday morning, April 4, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A cyclist passes by the closed entrance to Frank Newhall Look Memorial Park on North Main Street in Florence on Saturday, April 4, 2020. All parks, play areas and recreational facilities in the city were ordered closed by the city of Northampton on Saturday. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Lee Douchkoff of Westhampton walks away from the closed entrance to Look Park in Florence on Saturday morning, April 4, 2020. The cyclist said that, barring bad weather, he rides through the park nearly every day. All parks, play areas and recreational facilities in the city were ordered closed by the city of Northampton on Saturday. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Pedestrians and cyclists approach a closed entrance to Frank Newhall Look Memorial Park in Florence on Saturday, April 4, 2020. All parks, play areas and recreational facilities in the city were ordered closed by the city of Northampton on Saturday. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Published: 4/4/2020 2:27:04 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The city announced Saturday the complete closure of school play areas, parks and recreation facilities to the public to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. The Northampton Police Department will act as the enforcement authority of the Department of Health under the order, according to a press release from the city.

In explaining the necessity for the order, Mayor David Narcewicz said that “despite the city’s best efforts to encourage social distancing, we have received numerous reports of gatherings at playgrounds, parks and recreation facilities, and in some cases police have dispersed. We put up signage, removed basketball rims, and took other incremental measures, but the unsafe practices have continued,” he said.

“The health director, acting on behalf of the Board of Health, felt they had no choice but to close these areas completely to protect the public health during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

The order, issued by Public Health Director Merridith O’Leary, covers all play structures, whether on public or private property, according to the city’s press release, though the order doesn’t apply to play structures at private residential properties where the use is limited to individual household units, as opposed to being shared.

Along with play structures, basketball courts and skate parks will be off limits to the public, as will park fields and fields. The order prohibits “any activities at these locations where groups continue to gather in violation of existing safe social distancing orders,” the city statement said.

North Main Street resident Loran Saito, who lives in Florence just a half-mile from Look Park, said she walks in the park daily, sometimes twice. She was disappointed to learn it was being closed.

“It’s hard to imagine handling the days ahead without walking in the park,” Saito said, “but I’m also aware that other people are dealing with much bigger losses.”

Although she said “good social distancing does go on there,” she has seen some visitors to the park, mainly younger people, not following the guidelines. “I know the playground equipment can be a problem,” she said. 

 Under a separate order by O’Leary on March 28, the penalties for violations of  “any order issued by the Health Director in response to the coronavirus pandemic” begin with a warning for the first offense and a fine of $300 for a second offense. The city also may pursue criminal charges or seek an injunction for a second or subsequent offense.

The following school play areas will be closed, according to the order: Bridge Street School, Jackson Street School, Leeds School, Ryan Road School, JFK Middle School and Northampton High School. 

The following parks and recreation facilities will be affected: Agnes Fox Park, Arcanum Field, Ellerbrook Field, Florence Fields, Lampron Park, Maines Field, Look Park (with the press release noting that the order “shall not apply to employees on site to feed and care for animals in the Look Park Zoo”), Pulaski Park, Sheldon Field and Veteran’s Field.

“The very best way to protect ourselves and our families from this illness is to follow the statewide advisory urging everyone to stay home except for essential tasks, which include essential jobs that can’t be done at home, urgent medical appointments, grocery shopping or visits to the pharmacy,” O’Leary said in the press release. “It is perfectly fine to go outside for exercise, as long as social distancing practices are maintained.”

Saito, who works as a program director for North Star, said she has prioritized spending time at the park, “especially with our current situation of working from home.”

Just back from a walk around her neighborhood with her daughter, she said she’ll have to come up with some new routes, “but I don’t think we’ll find anything we love as much as the park.”

 

 




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