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Recent announcements by governor do not add any more clarity to when playgrounds, other local parks can reopen

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Duane GarnerTo play, or not to play, that is the question. This past week I have seen a shift in the level of activity around our little City of Prineville, Oregon. There have been a lot more people out and about and it seems like the initial scare of COVID-19 has worn thin. People are out of hiding and ready to resume some semblance of normal life. The sun is shining, the grass is green, the trees are leafed out and it feels like summer is upon us. Folks have been cooped up for weeks and they are breaking out of their isolation to get some fresh air. But where am I allowed to go? Can I go to the park? The answer is yes, but not all areas are opened back up yet.

The #1 question I have been getting recently is this: When are the playgrounds and skate park going to open back up? The #2 most-asked question: When are the campgrounds going to open up? And question #3: When is the pool going to open?. I'm sorry to say that my answer to all of these questions is not very helpful. I have no idea. In Governor Brown's executive order, she specifically called out closing playgrounds, sports courts, skate parks and public and private campgrounds. With the recent announcement of some State Parks re-opening, many people assumed that this meant campgrounds and all our local places to play. As near as I can tell, this simply meant some State Parks day-use areas and boat launches are open. As of the time of this writing, there has been no change in the Governor's order to re-open any of the above mentioned areas. Day use areas were never part of the order and that's why we chose to keep Ochoco Lake and Haystack day-use and boat launches open all along. I believe that there has been some wisdom in trying to keep tourism at bay, but as far as Ochoco Lake and Haystack go, it's primarily the local folks using these places. I'm no doctor, but it doesn't seem to me like it's very difficult to social distance while you are bobbing around in the middle of the lake. In fact, I'm pretty sure this is the very reason men do this activity to begin with. They say it's about catching a fish, but really it's always been about social isolation. The fish story is just a big cover up so that when you tell others what you have been up to, it will sound like legitimate time well spent.

I can understand why there has been concern over playgrounds and Skate Parks as they are heavily used, concentrated areas. But how long do we need to be super careful? Do we really need to keep these areas closed for the entire summer? Do we really need to keep campgrounds locked up? COVID-19 is real and I do think we all need to continue to be careful to keep from spreading the virus. But I also think we need to be logical and reasonable in how we go about doing this. Staying cooped up inside is not healthy. Being in the outdoors breathing the fresh air and getting some exercise is good for your body and your soul. I would like propose a new tag line. Instead of "stay home, save lives", how about "get out, stay heathy".

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