Guidelines for safe, happy and fun park programming during COVID-19

Resource | août 28, 2020

Park People has prepared this planning guide to assist you in delivering safe and successful face-to-face programs during this challenging period of Covid-19.

It’s important that you review the rules and guidelines provided by your local public health authority (Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Gatineau, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax). These will contain the most up-to-date information relevant to your local context including current information on the numbers of people permitted at an outdoor event. Once you are familiar with these, here are some additional guidelines to help promote safety during park activities and events.

As a reminder:

  • Practice physical distancing and maintain a 2 metre/6 foot distance from others when outdoors.
  • Step aside or pass others quickly and courteously while on walking paths and trails.
  • Wear a mask or face covering if it is difficult to maintain physical distance when outdoors.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze into a tissue. Immediately throw the tissue in the garbage and wash or sanitize your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve or arm.
  • Wash your hands often before/after activities with soap and water for at least 15 seconds.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 70-90% alcohol concentration.
  • Avoid touching your face, nose and mouth.
  • Occasionally mistakes will be made. Be kind. Just try your best.

Here is a simple checklist that might be used by park leaders, volunteers and participants before any event: 

  1. Park Leaders’ Roles and Responsibilities

    Among other things, your role is to encourage and promote safe behaviour. This includes communicating expectations at the beginning of an event and gently reinforcing them and reminding participants when and where it feels comfortable for you to do so. You should not be in a position where you need to enforce physical distancing or other safe behaviours; if a participant is repeatedly acting in ways that feel unsafe to you and others, you always have the option of asking them to leave or ending the event.

  2. Before your event

    • Site selection: When selecting a location for your event consider the following: washroom access, shade availability, space for physical distancing, accessibility for participants via safe transportation options.
    • Face coverings and hand sanitizer: Bring extra masks and hand sanitizer so that they are available for participants who may be without.
    • Additional supplies: You may want to consider bringing additional supplies such as sterilizing wipes, latex gloves and/or garbage bags depending on the nature of the program that you’re offering and certainly if it’s a park clean up.
    • Food and supplies: Communicate to your participants that they should bring their own snacks, water and other supplies as needed. Unfortunately, sharing food is not allowed right now. Should you want to supply snacks, be sure they are individually wrapped - for example, pre-wrapped granola bars or juice boxes. At the same time, please be mindful of waste.
    • Event capacity: Limit the maximum number of participants according to the capacity of your site and in consideration of what you feel comfortable with, and certainly always within public health guidelines. Your top priority is promoting participant safety. Don’t forget to allow for walk-ins if that makes sense for your program.
    • Advance registration: If practical, advance registration is a good idea. This will ensure participant numbers are limited while providing necessary information for contact tracing should it be needed. The registration site should inform participants that their contact information will only be held for 30 days, should the need for COVID-19 tracing be required. You might also ask screening questions to prompt self-assessment for COVID symptoms during the registration process.
  3. At the event

    • Prepare a simple script: Make sure you have prepared what you need to say at the beginning of the event regarding symptom screening and other expectations so nothing is forgotten. If you’re hosting a large event, consider having a health and safety volunteer do this task. Some items to include: reminders about physical distancing; reminders that there’s to be no food sharing other than with family members or those within your “bubble”; pointing out signage and amenities; reminding people to bring all of their garbage home and/or to dispose of it safely at the event.
    • On-site sign-ins: Use sign-in sheets to collect names and numbers should it be needed for contact tracing. Include the name and phone number of participants, date, time and location of the program. Assure people that this information will be kept confidential, kept for only 30 days and only shared with public health if necessary. If participants remain unwilling to supply this information, there’s nothing further you can do. Know that you’ve tried your best.
    • Site signage: If your event is in one place, post signs in highly visible locations to remind everyone to practice preventative measures and physical distancing. If it makes sense, think about marking entry and exit points to your event - this will assist with physical distancing and monitoring the number of participants.
    • Site layout: Arrive early to assess and modify the layout of your local park if that’s required. Something as simple as distancing picnic tables will discourage people from congregating too closely.
    • Physical distancing: You may want to think about fun ways to reinforce physical distancing. Gentle reminders in tandem with props or shared code words add a certain light-heartedness. Examples of props are hockey sticks or styrofoam swimming noodles; shared code words such as “hippopotamus” might mean someone is getting too close. Of course, the codeword has to be shared with everyone in your opening remarks!
    • Respect for all: Don’t downplay or minimize peoples’ concerns. In any group of people, there is likely a range of comfort levels. As best you can, try to accommodate everyone’s needs however if someone doesn’t feel safe or comfortable, feel free to suggest to them that this may not be the right program for them at this time.

    We look forward to hearing how your events go and encourage you to get in touch to provide feedback and new ideas so we can continue to improve these guidelines.


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