Berkley resident Andrew Rees leads an outdoor boot camp class Aug. 6 at the city’s Community Park through the local Parks and Recreation Department.

Berkley resident Andrew Rees leads an outdoor boot camp class Aug. 6 at the city’s Community Park through the local Parks and Recreation Department.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Local parks focusing on outdoor activities for residents

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published August 11, 2020


FERNDALE/BERKLEY — At the beginning of June and in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oakland County Health Division announced that it was rescinding an emergency health order that had closed down all outdoor playground equipment for children in the county.

Playgrounds across Oakland County have been open since, and those in charge of the parks in the area have sought to help those seeking outdoor recreation.

Ferndale Parks and Recreation Director LaReina Wheeler said the visitation in the parks in her city has increased since the reopenings. She believes that might have something to do with people seeking outdoor activities after they were forced inside during the early parts of the pandemic.

“Because of COVID and all the shutdowns and the risk involved with being around too many people, people are taking a lot more advantage of outdoors and parks and being one with nature,” she said. “Exploring more, walking more. If you try to order or buy some type of fitness equipment, it’s all sold out everywhere. … (People) are being a lot more creative and kind of going back in the day when we used to go outside and play.”

While activities inside local community centers have yet to return, cities have begun to host events in their parks. Wheeler said they’ve been allowing local gyms to have permitted spaces to hold classes outdoors, as well as giving out free sports kits every week that have anything from soccer and basketballs to jump-ropes and chalk.

Berkley has been focusing on its own events as well, hosting yoga in the park, outdoor boot camps and various kids’ events in several parks.

Parks and Recreation Director Theresa McArleton said they’re trying to be as creative, safe and mindful of the difficult situation everyone is in while also attempting to offer people activities they can choose to do.

“Right now, people want to be outside, and as the county allowed us to reopen playground structures … the city really goes off of what the county and state mandates in terms of what they believe is safe,” she said. “I think people being able to recreate in whatever way they can is important and a good thing.”

With the return of parks also came the increased focus of keeping the playground equipment and people visiting the area safe from infection. In addition to hand sanitizer stations, the city’s maintenance workers also clean the equipment. Wheeler said this hasn’t really led to an uptick in work for the staff.

“There’s been some increase in maintenance so far, but with the restrooms and water fountains not being open as of yet, that helps decrease maintenance,” she said.

Everybody, McArleton said, is concerned about safety and health and wellness, which is why the community center has remained closed and they’ve focused their attention on outdoor events.

“I think our department is like many where we’re trying to balance … people wanting to recreate and be in our parks and make them available, and also make (available) different activities that they can choose to do or not, and to do them in the safest manner possible,” she said. “So far, I think that we’ve been doing that and ... following all the county and state mandates.”