Park with People and Pets

Interest Increases for Open Spaces and Parks

Post-pandemic use comes paired with liabilities and need for safety.

The pandemic has changed the way people use open spaces and parks. Parks, open spaces, sports grounds, playing fields, and the like can be found all across the state of Colorado, and more people have been utilizing the green spaces in their local environment now more than ever.

With cities and towns becoming denser and increasing in population, open spaces are becoming a haven for people looking for a place to go beyond work, their home, or indoor community spaces.

As this happens, understanding the risks present in these open spaces is key to guest health and safety, as well as the health and safety of employees that manage the grounds.

For park and recreations districts as well as metropolitan districts, managing opens spaces for the public is no easy task, given the diversity in the sizes, use, and location of open spaces.

Expansion of Open Spaces

According to Governing, a new survey shows that US mayors expect that people will spend more time in open spaces and parks than before the pandemic.

In addition, majors also expect that people will spend more time biking and walking then before. Opinions aside, it should come as no surprise that parks are essential to improving health and wellbeing through physical activity, stress reduction, and social interaction.

Since the pandemic changed commuting patterns and day-to-day life, cities have taken on initiatives to keep streets “open” by turning temporary closings into permanent ones to encourage more recreational activities and lessen dependence on vehicles.

Sidewalk space was reclaimed, parking lots were repurposed, and even entire streets were closed for dining.

In fact, the creation of outdoor dining spaces was the most popular use of open space during the pandemic, with 92% of mayors creating new space for this, with 34% planning to make the changes permanent.

Safety and Security

With the addition of new open spaces in urban environments, as well as the continued and increased use of open spaces in cities and beyond, understanding how to keep users and staff safe remains critical.

According to RoSPA, it’s a best practice to schedule independent inspections and risk assessments of open spaces and parks regularly. For parks, specifically, the CSD Pool recommends an expert assessment every year.

This is especially important if a public park has a playground, where a Certified Playground Safety Inspector may need to review the grounds and structures to reduce liabilities.

According to ARUP, fear of violence and crime in outdoor areas is reported as one of the most significant factors that deter visitation and use of public spaces.

By lighting pedestrian routes and cycle paths, usage can increase by 38% and 63%, respectively, when compared to the same paths unlit. Fear of violence and crime also reduces the amount of time individuals spend in open spaces.

Other issues that can befall open spaces can be avoided by paying attention to where hazards crop up most frequently.

This includes paths, where slips, trips, and falls are most common; grass areas prone to potholes, broken glass, and litter; and fixed furniture such as benches and waste bins.

Managing Natural Resources

With open spaces, the management of natural resources and natural hazards is something many districts have begun to take into consideration. Most districts operate parks and open spaces through the use of a master plan, which can serve as a roadmap to objectives, priorities, and risk management.

If your organization operates open spaces or parks, some areas to consider when addressing natural hazards include:

  • Fire mitigation – develop partnerships and create natural area management plan with land managers, utility providers, and public safety officials
  • Wildlife habitats – work with natural resource managers to accommodate wildlife needs while balancing management for fire, floods, and drought
  • Watershed management – form storm water, floodplain, and vegetation management partnerships with flood control districts, watershed managers, and public works departments. It is also beneficial to install drought-tolerant plant materials and reduce park dependency on water resources.
  • Flood management – identify and re-route trails that are prone to flooding and frequent water damage. It is also important to work on stream bank stabilization which helps mitigate flood events.

Other Resources and Safety Consultations

With open spaces, parks, and other green spaces encountering an increase in demand, it falls to the districts to make sure there is enough space for constituents and the community while also meeting safety standards.

To have a free safety consultation of your open space, park, or playground, email us at info@csdpool.org.

The CSD Pool’s trained Safety Consultant and Certified Playground Safety Inspector can visit your district, assess your risks, and provide you with a plan on mitigation tactics.

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