While parents of young children all over southwest Riverside County look for ways to keep their youngsters entertained, one of their options is off the table.
The city of Temecula, like many cities in the area, have closed amenities at local parks, while keeping the open spaces open to the public.
“Fields, courts, playgrounds and other amenities that have the potential for large gatherings are closed,” Kevin Hawkins, director of community services for Temecula, said. “We have monitored usage with our park rangers, adding additional signage where appropriate to reflect the amenities closures.
“Although we have reinforced through our website, press releases and park signage what is open and what amenities are closed, this story and your assistance can really help us with ‘social pressuring’ through education to adhere to responsible park usage.
“The city has created and will continue to promote alternative recreation options through social media and the city website,” he said.
Hawkins said it was important for the city to act fast to curb the spread of the virus within the community.
“In response to the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus, Temecula was very proactive with the initial closure of Community Services facilities and cancellation of programs and events,” Hawkins said. “Similarly, we have always been proactive in our desire to provide a wide range of award-winning community services programs and events. Utilizing available technology and expanding our delivery platform will not just benefit the community now, during this crisis, but moving forward.
“We also wanted to ensure that any actions taken were always and continue to be in the best interest of the community,” he said.
Hawkins pointed to a recent episode of “Around and About Temecula” with Jeff Lawrence who talked about how parents are running after their children with disinfectant in hand.
“Weather permitting, we encourage getting some fresh air by going for a walk, hike or bike ride, keeping in mind social distancing guidelines,” Hawkins said. “Jeff went on to stress that unlike mom and dad at home, city crews are not out there disinfecting all amenities such as playgrounds after each usage. As such, we made the decision to control those amenities that we could to help mitigate the occurrences of larger social gatherings.”
City parks remain open as they provide much needed open and recreation spaces, Hawkins said. Park amenities, such as restrooms, the skate park and pump track, splash pad, playgrounds, sport courts, hockey rinks and athletic fields are closed.
Hawkins said there’s no estimate on when the parks will be reopened.
“The simple answer is no, which is a position shared by my peers throughout the region,” he said. “As Mayor James ‘Stew’ Stewart states, ‘We know that these are trying times and we want to offer our resilient community members … fun experiences at home.’ Our Temecula Community Services District President Zak Schwank is in the process of creating a couple of PSAs that reinforce the mayor’s comments with responsible neighborhood biking and hiking.”
The department recently introduced a virtual Community Services webpage that highlights “self-care, social distancing and safety without sacrificing fun,” Hawkins said.
The page can be viewed at https://www.temeculaca.gov/VirtualCS.
“Temecula is a beautiful and safe city with great outdoors,” Hawkins said. “We urge all our residents to be mindful and responsible when taking a much-needed break outside or going to the grocery store.”
Hawkins said for a city like Temecula that takes pride in its parks and community services, it was a tough decision to make, but the right one.
“In the midst of a global pandemic, many decisions are challenging but always weighed in the context of what’s best for the health, safety and trust of the residents, city workforce and businesses,” Hawkins said. “I should add that once we finally get through this, Temecula will be sure to remind everyone of the mayor’s theme of ‘Temecula Fun’ and all the great events, programs, shows, activities, parks and recreation that are synonymous with our high quality of life.”
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.