Metroparks to reduce visitor capacity to 60% amid coronavirus outbreak

Visitors will be able to check for closures online

Lake St. Clair Metropark
Lake St. Clair Metropark (Amber Ainsworth/WDIV)

BRIGHTON, Mich. – All 13 Metroparks are going to remain open to give people a chance to get outside, enjoy nature and exercise but additional social distancing measures will be enforced to protect park visitors amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

READ: Michigan Gov. Whitmer considers easing up stay-at-home restrictions May 1

Huron-Clinton Metroparks Director Amy McMillan said the team is monitoring attendance in the parks and is aware that as the temperature outside increases, the possibility for overcrowding in the parks also increases.

Because of the potential increase in visitors, the Metroparks are looking at a new strategy to monitor capacity thresholds within the parks. They plan on closing certain areas, or entire parks if attendance is too high or if people are not following social distancing guidelines.

The Metroparks Police and park staff will do parking lot counts three times a day to make sure that total parking spaces within each park do not exceed 60 percent of their full capacity. If the capacity is more than 60 percent, the entrance gates will be temporarily closed.

Depending on the time of the day, the park may reopen as visitors leave. Visitors already in the park when a closure starts can stay.

RELATED: How loosening restrictions too soon could lead to devastating second coronavirus (COVID-19) spike

“Our plan will almost certainly adjust with time,” McMillan said. “We are paying attention and managing in real time the most current concerns and our plan will shift as concerns change”. The Metroparks will be performing a practice drill of their temporary park closure procedures in select locations in the coming days to make sure staff are familiar and prepared for what needs to be done when these procedures truly need to be enforced. Those dates will be Wednesday, April 22 between 1 – 2pm at Kensington, Stony Creek and Lower Huron Metroparks and Thursday, April 23 between 1 – 2 pm at Hudson Mills, Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie Metroparks.

Some safety protocols have already been implemented:

  • Closed all interpretative center buildings, including nature and farm centers, restrooms, food service, playgrounds, golf and disc golf courses, volleyball courts and offices. These are locations that can typically encourage close gatherings of people.
  • Closed boat launches to motor boating.
  • Cancelled all Metroparks public programming through June 5 to coincide with school closures. 
  • Offering free admission on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during the Stay Home, Stay Safe executive orders.
  • Starting summer hours so Metroparks are open longer each day, giving residents more options for their visit.
  • Having Metroparks police officers patrolling regularly and reminding visitors about safe social distancing practices as needed.
  • Providing Metroparks team members working toll booths during admission days with protective gloves, hand sanitizer and encouraging them to wear face masks. For vehicles, with an annual pass (which can be purchased online), there is no direct contact with the toll booth attendant and visitor. For those purchasing daily passes on the days needed, the interaction is minimal and brief.
  • Implementing a requirement for all toll booth attendants and police officers to wear a face mask and encouraging all other staff to wear one as well. Staff are asked to have a face mask in their possession to use if they come within six feet of co-workers or visitors.

Click here for more information and updates

The Metroparks will be posting information about closures on its website and social media channels.

MORE: What the CDC says you should do if you believe you have coronavirus (COVID-19)

How COVID-19 Spreads

Person-to-person spread

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

  • Spread is possible before people show symptoms. People who are not showing symptoms can still be carrying the virus and can still pass it on to other people.

Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

How easily the virus spreads

How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (spread easily), like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, spreading continually without stopping.

Prevention & Treatment

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

Click here for more guidelines from the CDC.

People who think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

Question about coronavirus? Ask Dr. McGeorge here.

Read more about coronavirus here.

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