Even Parks Are Going Online During the Pandemic

Parks departments in New York City and Pittsburgh are offering videos and livestreams to cooped-up residents.

April 10, 2020, 6:00 AM PDT

By rkaufman


Just as parents are trying in earnest to create a sense of normalcy for children during COVID-19, city parks departments are repurposing their services, staff, and spaces to do the same. Shortly after schools closed indefinitely in New York City, the Department of Parks and Recreation pushed out their “Parks at Home” initiative — an online portal virtually bringing environmental education and recreation to viewers, from the comfort of their homes.

“With libraries, schools, movie theaters, restaurants, gyms, and bars closed, people are realizing the value of parks now more than ever,” said Mitchell Silver, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

As images of clustering New York park-goers incite outrage on social media and at press conferences, some push for the city to close its parks entirely. Silver says a decision like that would be made in conjunction with health officials and the mayor. But in the meantime, he encourages safe, socially distant walks outside, or the option to enjoy the outdoors virtually. “When New Yorkers can’t make it out to our parks, we’re bringing the parks to them.”

Silver explains how Parks at Home covers everything from virtual walks and meditation exercises, to regularly recurring live talks with park rangers. A typical talk might touch on the history of Central Park landmarks, the lives of animals in Queens County Farm Museum, or the science behind the parks’ 17 different species of evergreen trees.

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