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Authorities Increasing patrols at parks, trails following social distancing concerns

Posted at 4:24 PM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-01 18:45:58-04

SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio — Federal and state officials are reminding people to follow social distancing guidelines on a daily basis in order to combat coronavirus.

As Ohioans have been ordered to stay at home unless it’s absolutely necessary, many people are heading to area parks and trails for fresh air.

However, Summit County Sheriff’s Office employees said they’ve been forced to increase patrol in those places because of consistent complaints about large gatherings taking place, despite orders to practice social distancing.

“Last weekend when the weather was nice it seemed like Memorial Day numbers at the parks,” Inspector Bill Holland said.

Earlier this week, Governor Mike DeWine suggested he may eventually have to order the closure of parks and trails because of similar complaints.

Holland said the start of a new month and sunnier weather brings new, heightened concerns for safety.

“People are not wanting to follow these guidelines because they’ve been cooped up here in Northeast Ohio all winter,” Holland said, “And now the weather is getting nice and people really want to get outside.”

Additional deputies are now patrolling public parks to keep an eye on crowds gathering outdoors.

“It’s definitely a double-edged sword,” Holland said. “The longer people aren’t following these guidelines — it could drag out longer.”

Virginia Cameron was walking alone at Liberty Park Wednesday afternoon and said she doesn’t want to lose her outdoor privileges because of the behavior of others.

“They could very well ruin it for everyone,” Cameron said, “I hope not.”

Currently, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office is not issuing fines or citations to people who aren’t practicing social distancing, but officials want to remind people of the potential health risk each time a patrol officer has to approach a large crowd and ask them to separate.

“We’re not trying to ruin anyone’s fun or come in between someone getting some fresh air,” Holland said. “Everyone just needs to understand that they need to do it safely.”

Instead, deputies are asking people to use common sense and closely follow CDC guidelines when exercising outdoors.

“What we don’t want to see are people using playground equipment, basketball courts, playing soccer,” Holland said. “Things like that where people are coming in physical contact or passing a ball back and forth.”

Virginia Cameron suggested implementing local scheduling for outdoor exercise.

“I think it would be good if we could sign up for times that we would come,” Cameron said, “and that we’d all be cognizant to the fact that we need to keep our space and we need to care for each other.”

According to the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, they also receive consistent complaints about large indoor get-togethers and house parties.

If you witness a large group not abiding by social distancing guidelines, you’re asked not to call 911. Instead, you’re urged to report it to your area health department.