The Safety Sticklers sourced a range of tips from health and safety experts on opening National Parks. This guidance is aimed to ensure we can all experience the natural beauty of the US, get exercise, and enjoy some fresh air – while also minimizing the chance of spreading the coronavirus.
- 1 1. Safety Signage
- 2 2. Maintaining Social Distancing
- 3 3. Vehicle and Parking Safety
- 4 4. Blocking Off Playgrounds and Other Recreation Areas
- 5 5. Maintenance and Construction Barriers
- 6 6. Social Media and Website Messaging
- 7 7. Encourage Leaving to Return at a Later Date
- 8 8. Partner with an Expert on Health and Safety Equipment
Attendance in Parks Is Up
It may come as a surprise that attendance at National Parks has seen an enormous uptick. In some cases, even more so than normal times. That’s what makes managing the increase in both vehicle and pedestrian traffic so important.
1. Safety Signage
It’s true that people are safer outdoors than indoors from COVID-19, but that’s for two key reasons: better air circulation and more space to maintain social distancing.
However, taking that information to mean health and safety guidelines go out the window is a mistake. People who gather in groups outdoors have contracted the virus, and these same people may have prevented infection if they had been indoors and more cautious.
That’s where safety signage comes in. And these crucial components will ensure your signage is as impactful and effective as possible:
- Large letters over a contrasting background color
- Universal symbols
- Bilingual messaging
- Durable material
- Displayed strategically
Strategically displayed signage means placed in high-traffic areas. These include park entrances, trail entrances, and any place with a high likelihood of the most eyes.
2. Maintaining Social Distancing
You can’t ensure people will keep a safe distance without actively policing it, and that would put you and your staff in unnecessary harm’s way. Let’s be honest: it’s not truly enforceable to begin with.
But what you can do is encourage social distancing and make it easier for people to maintain it.
Close Narrow Trails
Closing a few trails where it’s impossible to get out of the way of passersby can be an effective method of maintaining social distancing.
Consider this: if the trail is unsafe in normal conditions, no one has an issue with closing it down (i.e. mudslide hazard, fallen trees).
If social distancing isn’t an option, the trail could be considered inherently unsafe.
Also Check Out: The Importance of Social Distancing for Business Operations
Consider Exit-Only Routes
Farmers markets across the country are creating exit and entrance only pathways. This is used to reduce the cross-flow of pedestrians. If you have a looping trail, this may be a doable strategy.
Because we’re seeing a huge uptick in visitors, it may be a good idea to reduce capacity in every possible way. While a headcount isn’t realistic, you can reduce the number of parking spots available as well as close down certain lots. There’s more on that in the next section.
3. Vehicle and Parking Safety
Traffic safety is a wide-ranging category that encompasses a few different areas of safety measures. But the overarching goal is to keep things safe, organized, and adaptable depending on the situation.
Guiding Cars to the Right Areas
Most National Park areas have entrances that can get backed up by a large number of visitors. Even if you don’t have two service windows, creating two lanes that then reconverge into one is a great way to minimize overflow into nearby roads and highways.
Reduce Parking Capacity in Half
Many businesses are doing this to improve social distancing, as those arriving or exiting at the same time can find it difficult to stay separated when at their car. Further, this is an easy way to reduce capacity without trying to count visitors.
By placing a traffic cone or two in every spot (ideally backed up by signage that asks people not to move the cones), parking lots get filled up quicker, fewer people are in the park, and health and safety are elevated.
Prevent People from Parking Along the Shoulder
When parking lots get filled up, people tend to go to plan B: parking along the shoulder of the road.
In general, this is unsafe for the vehicles, people exiting and reentering the vehicles, and all passing vehicles. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s especially problematic. There’s no way to control the flow of people if they can park anywhere and enter from all directions.
Close Down Parking Lots
Even smaller parks can have several parking lots with access to things like trails, lakes, and so on. So rather than putting cones on certain spots, you may be able to simply close down half of the parking lot. Fewer traffic safety products are required to accomplish the same general goal: cutting attendance without enforcing it one car at a time.
4. Blocking Off Playgrounds and Other Recreation Areas
Playgrounds, picnic areas, barbecues, and other facilities are tempting. They just are. Even when they’re marked off, people tend to ignore the signs and enjoy them anyway.
That’s why this one is a bit more nuanced than the above advice.
To keep people away from otherwise irresistible park amenities, put yourself in the shoes of the tempted. What would make you the least likely to ignore warnings?
We’ve seen parks use orange mesh fencing, which is just begging to be climbed and played on. We’ve also seen simple yellow tape around playground equipment. That’s less of a deterrent and more of what looks to be debris blown against the slides and jungle gym.
As cheap and easy as those might be, they’re almost entirely ineffective. If it’s feasible, temporary fencing can be a great way to all but eliminate playground, picnic, and BBQ usage.
If you already have some in storage specifically for construction projects, know that fence panels are versatile and can be repurposed for general crowd control.
Privacy Screens Further Diminish Temptation
A common security measure at construction sites is the fence screen. Rather than invite opportunistic vandals and thieves, you simply make what’s behind the fence a mystery. Unless they’re particularly curious, they’ll pass right on by.
The same is true for keeping people out of specific areas during COVID-19. Rather than a fence surrounding an otherwise pristine playground, all they see is a fence. What’s beyond it is a mystery, and we’ve successfully help prevent the spread of the virus.
Read Too: How to Set Up Construction Site Fencing: A Definitive Guide
5. Maintenance and Construction Barriers
While we’re on the topic of construction projects, closed or partially closed parks may be the perfect opportunity for long-needed renovations, revamps, upgrades, and restorations.
If you have the room in the budget and a need, construction fencing, plastic barricades, and other products can go a long way in creating a safe, secure, and productive space.
At Sonco, we offer coronavirus-specific safety products for work zones, including custom fence screens with CDC guidelines. These include hand-washing, social distancing, and so on.
We can also help you create screening areas to make sure everyone entering your sight is asymptomatic and knows to go home if they’re at a high-risk, such as if they recently traveled outside of their daily routine. These include temps, barricades, and retractable belt stanchions.
A bundle deal on construction equipment is a great way to get discounts on COVID-19 equipment for the rest of the park as well. The more you buy from us, the more you’ll save per item. The same is likely true for most distributors. However, our price-match guarantee, free expert advice, and superior shipping make Sonco the industry’s top-rated choice.
Visit our Construction Application section to explore the options and get started today.
6. Social Media and Website Messaging
People will usually check the website or social media page to make sure the park is open. That’s a great area to present crucial safety information.
But we think it may be best to put that front and center rather than as a link to a separate page. Too many parks have, “NOW OPEN!” on the homepage and a, “Here’s what we’re doing about COVID-19,” as a link at the top. Most people will see that you’re open and start packing the car instead of learning the information they need to maintain safety for themselves, other visitors, and park staff.
Here are some points to present front and center on your website as well as what you might want to have pinned to the top of your social media channels or in the bio:
- Only visit if you’re located in the surrounding area.
- Come early or the parking lot will be filled.
- Bring masks and hand sanitizer.
- Know that many bathrooms will be closed.
- Many trails and parking areas will be closed.
- Certain activities are suspended, like swimming, horseback riding, etc.
Not only will this ensure everyone who checks your web channels know the situation, it also may prevent some people from visiting, particularly those traveling from out of state or an in-state COVID-19 hotspot.
At the same time, it also lets others know that there are some social expectations when visiting the park. This can encourage people who are particularly careful to visit the park, which adds more indirect social pressure to those who don’t want to follow guidelines.
Read Too: How the Public Sector Can Prepare to Reopen After COVID-19
7. Encourage Leaving to Return at a Later Date
When the parking lot is full or busy, setting up a sign that encourages people to leave and come back can be effective.
If people call to find out if you’re still open or busy, it may be wise to recommend that they come when things are more back to normal. Anything that can reduce the attendance to at least some degree can be effective, particularly when there’s more attendance now than ever.
As much as we all want to support our parks, they can be shut down again if they’re the source of repeat infections. No one wants that.
8. Partner with an Expert on Health and Safety Equipment
One of the simplest ways to ensure your park has health and safety measures up to the highest standards based on best practices is by partnering with an expert.
Our team is available for no-obligation advice, and we specialize in people and vehicle management. Contact us today by phone, email, or online chat, and we’ll get right to work on exceeding your expectations as well as those of your park’s visitors.