Wooden slats strung together with wire served as an impromptu fence, surrounding a piece of playground equipment Saturday at Lafayette Tower Park.
On it, a sign displayed a clear, concise message: “Closed.”
Children, off from school due to the spread of COVID-19, would be unable to play on the slide, crawling tube and fireman's pole in East Lampeter Township.
“We have fenced off all playground equipment in each of our three parks,” township manager Ralph Hutchison said, adding that restroom facilities will remain closed, too. “We feel that these surfaces could contribute to the spread of the virus and therefore felt that closing these pieces of equipment would help.”
In Ephrata Borough, playgrounds also were closed.
The same has been true at parks throughout Lancaster County, where fears of the contagious coronavirus have prompted officials to enact closures.
But they have not ordered residents out of open space altogether. In fact, they’ve encouraged outdoor recreation.
“Being outside in nice weather is very healthy,” state health secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said in a tweet. “Please continue to practice social distancing and avoid areas where people may gather.”
Social distancing, which encourages people to remain at least 6 feet apart, may be complicated as more people turn to parks and other outdoor spaces after schools and businesses were ordered closed to combat the virus, officials said.
Terry Brady, press secretary for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, admitted some state parks have been crowded.
“We strongly are urging against congregating, group walking,” he said.
Brady offered that advice on Monday, the same day agency officials announced that all facilities at state parks and forests would remain closed until at least April 30. Open space — trails, lakes, forests, roads, and parking areas — still remains open to the public. Susquehannock State Park is Lancaster County’s only state park.
Earlier, state Game Commission officials announced they’d closed all shooting ranges on game lands.
Monday also was the same day that employees of Akron Borough were making rounds to area parks, attaching “closed” signs and caution tape to playground equipment. A hockey rink at Broad Street park also would be closed, borough manager Sue Davidson said.
“We’re doing this ourselves,” she said, explaining it wasn’t ordered by the state.
Davidson said she expects residents to follow new rules, which will be policed, though warnings likely will precede penalties.
“We’ll see how it goes,” she said. “I don’t want to start fining people.”
In Ephrata Township, public restrooms at parks had been closed, but open space remained accessible, administrative assistant Jennifer Carvell said.
The same was true at restrooms in Elizabethtown Borough’s parks, borough manager Rebecca Denlinger said.
But Elizabethtown's playgrounds remained open to children, she said Monday morning, admitting that could change.
“We are monitoring the situation very, very closely,” she said.