St. Charles County’s 16 parks are treasures cherished by the community. While there were event cancellations and some closures this spring in response to COVID-19, I am impressed with how St. Charles County Parks and Recreation staff worked to keep the parks open and safe while keeping the community engaged. As amenities reopen and programs resume, staff continue to monitor the pandemic and take additional steps to protect visitors.
In case you weren’t aware of how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the Parks Department, let me recap: Outdoor open spaces, trails, fishing lakes, and disc golf courses remained open, and signage was placed in various areas throughout the parks to remind users to follow social distancing orders and practice good hygiene. Programs and reservations were canceled and playgrounds, restrooms, water fountains, dog parks, camping areas, shelters, and indoor meeting facilities closed on March 24. The Youth Activity Park and Heritage Museum also closed, as did the gift shop and tours of The Historic Daniel Boone Home. Despite the closures and modifications, the Parks Department saw an increase in park usage in March and April over previous years. Park Rangers and St. Charles County Police enforced social distancing when needed, but there were only a few instances of visitors violating social distancing orders. This is a compliment to the residents of St. Charles County and an example of why our community is continually ranked one of the healthiest in the state and nation.
While activities and events were canceled, parks staff went virtual with programming. Educational video programs were posted on the department’s Facebook Page, generating more than 25,000 views total with each video averaging nearly 1,100 views.
The department also partnered with the St. Charles City-County Library District and the St. Charles County Historical Society to launch an online survey to collect residents’ personal experiences during the pandemic. These stories will serve as an educational tool for future generations. You can still visit the Parks website to submit your story.
On May 4, after reviewing Governor Parson’s Show Me Strong Recovery Plan and consulting with the St. Charles County Department of Public Health, the Parks Department reopened park restrooms, camping areas, shelters and indoor meeting areas, and most other amenities. Off-leash dog areas reopen June 3; please read this release from Parks about social distancing guidelines and other precautions. To manage crowds and protect health and safety, playgrounds remain closed until further notice; Parks staff will continually evaluate the situation. Social distancing and hygiene signage remains in place and additional cleanings are conducted in restrooms and other high-traffic areas. Those who reserve shelters and indoor meeting facilities are required to abide by social distancing orders and describe how they plan to maintain social distancing during their event.
Regular parks programming resumed May 18 with additional precautions to emphasize safety. Activities and summer camps now operate with lower capacities and incorporate social distancing and additional sanitizing procedures. Popular events like the Father’s Day Grill Out also will have lower attendee limits. Additionally, tours of The Historic Daniel Boone Home now only allow smaller groups of guests to enter and staff conduct interpretation in outdoor areas. The department recommends registering early and online for activities.
For more information and future updates, visit the St. Charles County Parks website, Facebook Page, and Rainout Line. Thank you, St. Charles County, for responsibly enjoying our parks.