CHAMPAIGN – Many state and local parks that remained open during Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois plan have seen high volumes of visitors anxious to get outside in recent weeks. As Illinois enters Phase 4 Friday, all outdoor recreation at parks can return, but some precautions will remain in place.
Champaign Park District basketball and volleyball courts, as well as soccer and baseball fields, will all reopen under Phase 4.
But some aspects of the park’s outdoor recreation will be limited. Baseball and softball fields will be open only for practices and drills, not for games, and some facilities, such as the Sholem Aquatic Center, will remain closed for the season.
The park district says it is still modifying guidelines for the return of programs like adult and youth sports, but it will likely involve a gradual phasing in based on guidelines.
“We are taking a look at what the recommendations are for team sports and making sure we apply all of that to any programming we offer,” says Chelsea Norton with the Champaign Park District. “We do plan on having adult softball in August. But before we can really dive into it, we really want to make sure that we have the staffing capable and all the rules figured out to make sure we can do it safely.”
Due to high numbers of visitors at outdoor areas in recent weeks, park officials are also encouraging people to spread out and visit smaller parks if others are overcrowded.
“I think Champaign is really fortunate to have over 700 acres of green space, over 60 parks in Champaign alone,” Norton says. “We’ve been really encouraging people to seek out a new park, or simply walk to your neighborhood park, so that way some major parks like Hessel or West Side aren’t overwhelmed with guests.”
Playgrounds will also reopen under Phase 4. But park officials are encouraging parents to take precautions when taking their kids to playgrounds.
“It is important to know that the playgrounds are not sanitized,” Norton says. “So it is play at your own risk. That’s why we encourage people to sanitize before and after play at the playground.”
Champaign-Urbana Department of Public Health District Administrator Julie Pryde says parents should keep kids away from crowded spaces, wash hands before and after, practice social distancing and wear face coverings when unable to remain six feet away from others.
Norton says one way to practice social distancing is to explore lesser known parks like Mattis Park, Porter Family Park and Sunset Ridge Park.
Lecia Bushak is a reporter at Illinois Public Media. Follow her on Twitter @Lecia_Bushak.