CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Metroparks expects big crowds during the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
Brian M. Zimmerman, CEO of the Metroparks, said the Metroparks has seen what he would call "record visitation" over the last few months.
"We're really just asking people to be safe. We're asking people to be respectful. Honestly, we're just asking to be kind to others," Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman asked people to be respectful in neighborhoods as well since visitors to Edgewater Park are not only filling up parking lots but nearby neighborhoods, too.
"We are really trying to be part of the solution," Zimmerman said. "Use good common sense, use some etiquette."
Although the Metroparks is not requiring masks because people are outside, Zimmerman said he thinks wearing a mask is something everyone needs to be thinking about, regardless of where they are and said not everyone shares the same level of comfort.
Zimmerman said other Metroparks, as well as Cuyahoga Valley National Park, are seeing record visitation during the pandemic, too.
"But we're not seeing everybody with the same etiquette," Zimmerman said. "We've seen more trash left in the parks than any of the ten years combined that I've been here."
He urged people to "pack in, pack out," or else bring a garbage bag from home.
"Help us out," Zimmerman said. "Put your garbage in a bag and put it next to the can, which makes a lot easier for our staff to pick up and keep the parks clean."
Zimmerman said that like many organizations, the Metroparks have been affected by coronavirus.
"We have 650 people in furloughs and layoffs, and we normally hire about 1,200 seasonals. This year, we've got about 400, so about a third of the staff that we would ordinarily have," Zimmerman said. "So we're really just asking people to be part of the solution, be respectful of this great natural resource and again, pack in, pack out and do what you can to help us out."
He also encouraged people to step off the trail to let other people pass by at a safe distance.
"People have actually become more accustomed to stepping aside and being separate from each other. So some things are definitely working, but it's still a challenge," Zimmerman said.
He added, "We're all in this together. Just be respectful, kind, be nice to others. Wear your mask. If you're not feeling well, stay home."
Zimmerman said people might be turned away from popular spots like Edgewater, Villa Angela, Euclid Beach, and Wildwood if too many people show up, so he said everyone should show up early or consider less popular spots.
"Use one of those lesser-known parks, Washington Park to Ohio and Erie Canal has got a great trail system. Bedford has got an amazing single track mountain bike. West Creek in Parma is one of my favorites. We've got a new single track, a bike trail through there. There's great connections to the community," Zimmerman said.
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