CORALVILLE — Since businesses began shutting down to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Anne Abbott has been working with parks and trail groups to spread the word about social distancing outside.
The Ph.D. student at the University of Iowa College of Public Health created a communication campaign being used by Coralville, Hiawatha, North Liberty, West Branch and the Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids to remind people to stay 6 feet apart from people not in their household, wear a mask, wash their hands frequently and steer clear of frequently touched surfaces like benches, picnic tables and play areas.
As restrictions are being eased in Iowa, Abbott’s advice is just as important as ever as people prepare for some fun in the sun — and possibly rain — over the Memorial Day weekend.
“There is a lot of research that shows physical activity is a vital piece of both physical and mental health and that just being outside is good for us. So it is very important we can access outdoor spaces in ways that keep us from spreading COVID-19,” Abbott said. “A lot of the recommendations really just come down to being thoughtful and polite so we aren’t intruding on other people’s space.”
Gov. Kim Reynolds eased more restrictions starting Friday at Iowa’s state parks — opening more campgrounds, restrooms, showers and rental cabins. State park beaches will be open, too, but monitored.
“Everyone is antsy to get outside and enjoy the beautiful Iowa natural resources after being cooped up all winter and more recently because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Iowa Department of Natural Resources Director Kayla Lyon said in a statement. “This weekend will provide a great time for families to get out and explore what our great state has to offer, but we caution everyone to do so safely and responsibly.”
Todd Robertson, Iowa DNR river programs outreach coordinator, said although the forecast calls for rain off and on throughout Memorial Day weekend, he expects a lot of people to be out on Iowa’s waterways.
Roberson plans to spend his weekend paddling and hitting the trails on his bike.
“The weather looks spotty, but trust me, people are going to be getting out no matter what because they’ve been waiting for it.”
Social distancing while boating, kayaking, canoeing or paddling is easy as long as you stay in a small group, Roberson said.
Keep boats 6 feet apart and don’t crowd each other on boat ramps.
Wear a lifejacket and bring an extra set of clothes in a dry bag if you plan on being in the water, since the water still is cool, he said.
Use your own gear, Robertson said. Don’t share life jackets, snacks or water bottles.
Sherri Proud, parks and recreation director for the city of Coralville, said she expects trail systems to be busy. On any given day, the Coralville trails see 400 people.
Proud said when passing someone on the trail, move off to the side if possible to maintain 6 feet of distance.
On trails like on roads, users should keep to the right, Proud said. When passing someone going in the same direction, say, “On your left.” The person being passed should step to the right.
Proud said she doesn’t recommend “toddler toys” like Big Wheels or tricycles on the trails.
“Some of our more nastier wrecks have been tangled with those small use and toddler toys,” she said. “They should really be used on a sidewalk in a neighborhood.”
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