I am requesting the immediate opening of all parks, access roads and restrooms.
We are in the midst of a historical event affecting the entire world. There are health concerns, and I understand many of the steps that have been taken to protect the population. I support many of these actions, but not the closing of our parks or creating barriers that make them less accessible.
First and foremost, in times of great strain we need these areas to help destress and recenter ourselves. While some suggest having parks open may lead to spreading of the virus, I believe not having them could lead to people harming themselves or taking their own lives. This is supported by numerous reports of crisis line calls. I fear that suicide statistics will also reflect the dangers of not having these assets accessible to all.
In this time of fear and isolation where we are bombarded daily with body counts, we need these places to see that we are not alone. We are social creatures and for most of us our daily routine puts us in contact with others regardless if we choose to interact with them. The parks allow this to happen and at a safe distance. The value of safe distance socialization along with exercise, fresh air and vitamin D from the sun is not only for our mental health but also our physical health and immune system.
In this age of equality, we have also overlooked how while many parks are open, closing the access points discriminates against those who are disabled or not otherwise able to make the long trek to their favorite places. Many municipalities have chosen to leave the parks open but gate or block parking lots and access roads. By taking these measures, you have closed our areas to anyone disabled. This violates the Americans with Disabilities Act; it is not fair or legal.
In my town of Gladstone, one of the reasons for the closure of our parks and access roads was a concern for public health due to people defecating in the park. Since this happened after the closure of the restrooms, I believe this was the result of some people who do not have another place to relieve themselves. The reality is a restroom is always a point where bacteria or virus can be found. Proper sanitation and hygiene is the best way to combat this. I believe the restrooms should be reopened, and the frequency of the sanitation schedules increased. I also believe that posting signs reminding us of the importance of hand washing is beneficial in general, and not because of our current viral outbreak.
It is deemed safe to visit grocery stores; mental nourishment is equally important for us to stay healthy. Most parks have larger parking areas or spaces than typical stores. We are in a smaller, more confined area in stores than in parks. Restrooms are also open and accessible in the stores. I believe that if these conditions are already deemed safe by all jurisdictions, then our parks are considerably safer. If groups disregard the social distancing directive, then education and, if needed, enforcement should be implemented against the offending individuals. We should not all pay penalty for the action of a few.
Moving forward, we must start focusing on education and living with a new viral threat. The reality is there will be potential danger from this point on; we can't simply stop living our lives. Those who don't want to risk their health and don't feel comfortable going out should stay home. The rest of us should have the option to take a walk with our dog or our housemate, work in their community garden, watch their fishing rod for signs of a fish or just sit and watch other people from a safe distance.
I respectfully request that you reopen our parks, access points, and facilities immediately.
Bill Osburn is a resident of Gladstone and a candidate for Clackamas County commissioner.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.