There are a lot of reasons why Thanksgiving weekend will look different this year. Health officials recommend people do not travel or gather in large groups, but there are ways you and loved ones can still #OptOut and spend this Black Friday in the outdoors enjoying the benefits of local parks.
During this public health crisis, time spent outdoors is more critical than ever for our physical and mental health. You might have even shifted your usual traditions or plans that involve a long drive or flight, given the pandemic conditions now. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun in the outdoors!
Your local neighborhood park is the perfect setting to round out your fall and celebrate the outdoors, no matter what. But be sure to take extra precautions, wear a mask if gathering with others outside of your household, and, as always, leave no trace when you are finished. Running, walking, rolling, cycling, or even a bundled up Thanksgiving picnic could be fantastic ways to express your gratitude for our public lands in your local park.
As a part of the Recreate Responsibly Coalition along with 700+ nonprofits, businesses, and government agencies, City Parks Alliance wants to provide you with guidance on how to stay safe before heading to your local park this holiday weekend. Along with our partners at REI Co-Op, skip the stores on Black Friday and instead head outside to your local park for an adventure in your own neighborhood. The #RecreateResponsibly guidelines offer a starting point for getting outside to keep yourself healthy and maintain access to our parks, trails, and beaches.
Know before you go. Check the status of where in the park you want to visit. If it’s closed or too crowded, don’t go and have a backup plan instead. If you’re in a major city, many of the main parks may experience increased crowds. Think about smaller city parks or hidden gems that may be worth exploring.
Practice physical distancing. Keep your group size small. Make sure your mask covers your mouth and nose, and give others space. If you are sick, stay home. Some city agencies have spray-painted circles or used other markers throughout major parks in places like New York and San Francisco to help park-goers keep the distance while still enjoying the greenspace. No markers? Just keep at least one park bench distance between you and others.
Plan ahead. Prepare for facilities like bathrooms to be closed, pack a lunch, and bring essentials like hand sanitizer and a face covering. If you are somewhere where the weather may be chillier, grab an extra layer or two to keep yourself bundled!
Play it safe. Slow down and choose lower-risk activities to reduce your risk of injury. First responders and health care resources are strained. If picnicking with little ones, avoid crowded playgrounds, sandboxes, and other high-touch areas to reduce risk.
Explore locally. Limit long-distance travel and make use of local parks, trails, and public spaces. Be mindful of your impact on the communities you visit. If you usually venture out of your neighborhood to a more popular park, consider trying out one closer to home for a fresh take and to reduce your impact.
Leave no trace. As always, respect public lands and waters, as well as Native and local communities. Take all of your garbage with you. Avoid bringing glass bottles to crowded picnic areas in parks, and pack it out when done.
Build an inclusive outdoors. Be an active part of making the outdoors safe and welcoming for all identities and abilities. Local parks are for everyone, so say hello to your neighbors and create a welcoming environment.
As state and local guidelines evolve, we can each take part in making the outdoors a safe place to be. Keeping up with #RecreateResponsibly can help keep everyone safe as we enjoy our local city parks this Thanksgiving weekend outside.
Stay safe and well with your celebrations this week.