FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Alice Saltzman and her dog Chuck were among the first to take advantage of Broward’s reopening of public parks Wednesday.
“I think being in nature, out in fresh air, is some of the best medicine,” Saltzman said.
For the first time in weeks, 33 parks operated by Broward County were open Wednesday morning so people can get out and exercise during the coronavirus crisis. Some boat ramps and golf courses have opened, too.
To many people, this is a very literal breath of fresh air. But there is a delicate balance to maintain so that it doesn’t backfire.
“I can tell you right now that it’s not going to be back to normal,” Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said. “We will try to return to functionality as opposed to normality, but I think that these first steps that were announced by the county and by us last night are going to be, is a good first step forward.”
Broward Mayor Dale Holness agreed that it will take more time to return to normality, but he said a reduction in the daily number of new COVID-19 cases played a major role in the decision to open these spaces.
“The numbers are in the right place, headed in the right direction,” Holness said.
Cities across Broward have had to decide whether to follow the county’s lead and open their parks.
Fort Lauderdale, Coral Springs, Parkland, Tamarac, Deerfield Beach, Cooper City and Margate are among those that are reopening some or all city parks.
Hollywood, Pembroke Pines, Miramar and Davie have decided not to open their city parks yet. Hallandale Beach said that limited park use will resume Thursday.
While the beaches and non-essential businesses remain closed, people were able to get out a little bit Wednesday.
“I’m a mover by nature, so I needed to keep exercising, keep moving,” said Carolyn Jordan, who took a walk in a Fort Lauderdale park.
Milton de Vecchi, who was visiting Anne Kolb Nature Center on his bike Wednesday morning, said he’s looking forward to seeing more people out of their houses, “because, you know, people need to be outside.”
Golf courses welcomed residents again Wednesday, as did certain marinas, boat ramps, basketball courts and tennis courts.
Social distancing rules remain in effect, with people needing to remain six feet apart. You can’t enter the parks if you have COVID-19 symptoms and you must wear a face covering around other people.
These measures are being monitored and enforced by park rangers.
Athletic leagues, games and races are still suspended throughout the county. Dog parks, splashpads, archery and batting cages remain closed too.
Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties coordinated the timing to also open their parks, marinas and golf courses on Wednesday. However, like Broward, some cities in Miami-Dade have delayed reopening.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday that the state will start to reopen business on Monday, but that Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties will have to wait a little longer because of the high number of cases there.
DeSantis has said that South Florida is close, which Holness echoed.
“We will be able to, I think within a matter of a week or so, start looking at how can we open a little bit more,” he said.
For a list of which Broward County parks are open and which aren’t, click here.
Broward’s full order including rules and requirements can be read below: