Penticton parents overjoyed to be back at playgrounds, but hyper-aware of COVID-19 precautions

New normal at playgrounds

Playgrounds are open for business again in Penticton and parents have wasted no time getting their kids to the parks — though not without some changes to their routines. 

The City of Penticton announced last week that playgrounds would be among the facilities accessible to the public again as of June 1, part of the COVID-19 gradual recovery plan.

At newly-reopened Lakawanna Park Monday morning families were keeping to their own quadrants and talking to their kids about social distancing, while basking in the joy of being back. 

"We were the first people here today," said Lacey Togyi, at the park with her partner Mike Togyi and their two year old Noah. "It's incredible to see him back at the playground having fun, running around, I mean it's been months, so just to see the smile in his face is amazing."

Mike said he has been impressed so far with parents keeping their family units separate, and thinks everyone is on board with maintaining social distance to prevent a further outbreak that could see parks closed up again. 

"There's a lot more hands-on parenting at the park than there used to be," he added with a laugh. "Parents have to be more involved."

Lacey explained Noah has been pretty good at following the rules, but they are still reminding him to keep his distance and keep his hands out of his mouth. 

"He's been really good, he seems to get it miraculously, he sees a person and just kind of freezes and lets them go ... we're happy to be back, but it will be lots of sanitizing and staying away from other kids, but it's better than nothing!"

Andrea Wilson was also at the park pushing her daughter on the swings and said her children are over the moon to be back, but echoed similar sentiments that the routine has changed. 

"We definitely will be more careful with hand washing before and after and trying to keep the kids at a distance, trying to wait their turn more when usually they would be all over each other or really close in a line," she said. "We will be more cautious about things like that."

The City of Penticton has posted signs at the perimeter of parks with reminders of social distancing protocols and an statement that "this playground is not being cleaned/sanitized beyond normal practice." They also remind users to sanitize hands before and after visiting, and to stay home if sick. 

Penny Der, who is 5 years old, told Castanet she is happy playgrounds are open again "because I really missed them."

"It's great, it's hard on kids to spend a lot of time isolated and alone. I think it rejuvenates their spirits, so everybody's happy, it was a great surprise," said her father Jay Der, while acknowledging public facilities don't come without their risks. 

"We carry a little bit of worry with us now, and that's just the way it's going to be."

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