Social Distancing: A Conflict of Interest for Parks & Recreation (part 1)

Posted by Jamie Sabbach on Apr 27, 2020

Does this new reality presents a door of opportunity to begin to think differently?

It’s a bit surreal. Panic and uncertainty are prevalent as the market goes from Bull to Bear, hoards of people rush to Costco in search of elusive toilet paper, professional sports have been halted, and many are hunkered down at home in self-isolation.

And the predominant question for many across the globe simply comes down to “what does this all mean”?

Up until a few months ago few had even heard of the Coronavirus or Covid-19. Now it is on the lips of everyone, steeped in uncertainty and intense levels of anxiety.

For those who work in public service, this real phenomenon is now felt professionally as well as personally. Preliminary efforts focused on creating precautionary procedures for cleaning and disinfecting common spaces like offices, locker rooms and other areas where people gather continue to be top of mind. More recently these preventative measures have escalated and are now resulting in decisions to close facilities and postpone or cancel activities and events. And now, the next phase of dialogue must turn towards how organizations will re-think how they do business moving forward.

Social Distancing is the new vernacular – how far apart do we stand or sit? In some European countries such as Italy, the suggested distance is three (3) feet. And how does a concept like Social Distancing play out in public parks and recreation when one of the main objectives of the profession is to create and weave social fabric and bring people together?

Time will tell as to what the immediate future holds but what we all know right now is that there will continue to be a stoppage of services and bottom-line effects of unknown quantity. And the most critical of all questions will come down to how to engage communities of people so that their emotional, mental and physical health are strengthened and not diminished during this time of distancing. Might this mean virtual gatherings, connecting people in public places in safe and innovative ways, or providing more individualized services? These are among the many questions that will undoubtedly be answered as we navigate the maze that Covid-19 has built and continues to construct.

It is easy to say that this is no time for fear which seems a bit contrite and unfeeling given the circumstances. If fear is the emotion of the moment, so be it. It is a common response when we do not know what lies ahead.

We are likely experiencing a once in a lifetime occurrence that may stabilize tomorrow or linger embellishing a new global reality that breeches boarders of all kinds. Is this just what we need to realize that presuming invincibility is kryptonite?

History has shown that our culture likes to deflect when things get uncomfortable. We want someone to “fix it”, tell us that everything will be fine, and that things will be the way they were before the crisis hit. But maybe a new reality presents a door of opportunity to begin to think differently. Because things are different and likely will continue to be so – at the very least for the immediate future.