Guidelines for Returning to Outdoor Recreation

outdoor recreation

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This is an unusual time for campus recreation professionals and outdoor enthusiasts. There is concern about personal and community health, as well as uncertainty about how to engage in outdoor recreation in a physically distant and safe manner.

During times like these, we look for official guidance from agencies who specialize in public health concerns. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidance for the use of public parks and recreation spaces. This guidance is important for recreation facility managers as they prepare to reopen outdoor fitness and recreation spaces.

The official statement from the CDC begins, “Staying physically active is one of the best ways to keep your mind and body healthy. In many areas, people can visit parks, trails and open spaces as a way to relieve stress, get some fresh air and stay active.” The statement continues to offer advice on how to safely return to and use these spaces:

  • Visit facilities close to your home.
  • Stay at least six feet from others at all times. This might make some open areas, trails and paths better to use than others. Do not go into a crowded area.
  • Avoid gathering with people you don’t live with.
  • Wear a cloth face covering if possible.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

If your outdoor recreation area does not have a handwashing area with soap and water, or a hand sanitizer station, consider adding one or both as an amenity for your visitors. Many people forget to bring hand sanitizer along with them, and providing an option for people to clean and sanitize their hands is an important part of the protocol outlined by the CDC. Outdoor hand sanitizer stations are readily available. They’re durable, tamper resistant and designed for high traffic areas. Many of them are priced as low as $199.

The CDC also warns you should not visit parks or outdoor recreation facilities if you are sick, tested positive for COVID-19 or were recently — within 14 days — exposed to COVID-19, and to avoid crowded parks and outdoor recreation areas.

Following these guidelines can help agencies in their plans to reopen outdoor facilities. You can read the full statement from the CDC at

Kent Callison is with GameTime, a designer of outdoor fitness spaces for parks and campus recreation facilities. For more information, email or call 800.235.2440.

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