MetroParks add offerings with health and safety in mind

Swings at RiverScape, Tree Tower at Cox Arboretum MetroPark now open

Spring has long been known as a time of new beginnings and, now, it’s also a time for new opportunities for outdoor fun and fitness.

Five Rivers MetroParks – in response to revised guidelines from Gov. Mike DeWine and Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County – is reopening visitor centers and shelters and will soon offer its popular fitness series at RiverScape MetroPark.

“It was important for us at Five Rivers MetroParks to find ways to safely reopen various amenities throughout our parks,” said Shelli DiFranco, director of marketing and public engagement. “Things like shelters, the Tree Tower at Cox Arboretum, and the swings along the river at RiverScape were definitely missed by the community and our staff this past year. Those were things that park visitors were asking to reopen and we’re glad we could safely bring those back.”

The MetroParks, as well as community and state parks throughout Ohio, have been popular destinations throughout the pandemic – places for physical fitness as well as much-needed stress relief. The MetroParks attendance estimate for 2020 was 3,804,019, an 8% overall increase over 2019. It’s an even more dramatic 25% increase when the cancellation of large events, like the Wagner Subaru Outdoor Experience, is factored in.

“Parks and other green spaces are so important, especially now, for our community and those who live, work or visit,” DiFranco said. “They’re great for physical activity, like our new Heart Healthy Trails, or to take a moment and simply breathe, enjoy nature.

“According to Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services, nearly a quarter of the U.S. population is experiencing symptoms of depression amid the pandemic. Getting a daily dose of nature is an easy, free way to boost your mood and reduce depression, anxiety and stress.”

Get moving

While the swings are back at RiverScape and the Tree Tower at Cox Arboretum MetroPark has reopened, some things will look different this year.

With the pandemic, so much of our daily lives has changed in order to keep people safe and healthy,” DiFranco said. “With Fitness in the Park, attendees will be encouraged to register in advance for a spot – which is still free. We’re also limiting the capacity of the program to 30%, which is in line with the directives from Gov. DeWine and our local health department.”

Participants will also be spaced out during the classes and are asked to wear a mask before and after class. The yoga and dance fitness classes will be offered on alternating Saturday mornings from 10-11 a.m. from May through August. A virtual option will also be available.

Moving forward

As guidance changes and statewide restrictions are lifted, more programs and additional amenities will likely become available.

“It is our hope to continue adding programs and resuming more of what park visitors expect from Five Rivers MetroParks,” DiFranco said. “We are in close contact with our local health department and are evaluating how to reopen things, like the Children’s Discovery Garden at Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark or turning on the splashpads during the summer months. As we are able to, we’ll continue sharing these developments.”

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