Play parks across the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council area will commence reopening on Friday 10th July in line with guidance issued by the NI Executive.
Speaking about the development, the Mayor Alderman Mark Fielding said: “Following three months of closure due to COVID 19 we are now in a position to begin re-opening parks across the Borough which will be welcomed by families and young people alike. Council has undertaken maintenance checks and risk assessments to ensure that the play equipment is safe to use and all sites have been cleaned in preparation for use.”
“I would appeal to parents and carers to help us keep the sites as safe as possible for everyone by washing hands before and after use and continuing to recognise the importance of social distancing.
“Some parks in the Borough could become very busy so please be responsible and only use the park if there is enough space for everyone to play safely.”
It should be noted that while Council is working hard to ensure that all play parks are reopened on July 10th, due to the scale of the operation in some individual cases reopening may take a little longer.
Reopening has been subject to risk assessments carried out in accordance with the HSE NI recommendations contained in the document “ Promoting a Balanced Approach to Children’s Play and Leisure” and in line with recent research conducted by the UK Play Policy Forum into the impact of Covid-19 and children’s play.
In anticipation of reopening, officers from across the 11 councils have been working with PlayBoard NI to develop guidance for parents to enable facilities to reopen. As a result a range of measures aimed at minimising the risk of infection have been agreed and parents and children visiting play parks are asked to adhere to the following guidance:
1. Closed Play Parks
If the play park you wish to use has not yet been officially reopened, please do no attempt to use or access the equipment
2. Secured equipment
In some cases, pieces of play equipment may have been secured to prevent their use on safety grounds. If an item has been secured to prevent use do not attempt to remove temporary barriers or use the equipment
3. Social Distancing
When visiting a play park make sure that you follow current government guidance on social distancing, encourage and support your children to do the same and keep a safe distance from others not in your household/social bubble
4. Busy Play Parks
Given that they are reopening for the first time in 3 months’ play parks may be busier than usual. If the play park is busy, consider coming back at a later time and let your child know in advance that this may be a possibility to avoid disappointment
5. Hand Washing
Wash your hands and your children’s hand’s before and after visiting the play park. Take hand sanitiser with you and ensure you and your child use it frequently whilst in the play park
6. Waste Management
Make sure that any disposable tissues, PPE equipment etc. is disposed of in the litter bins provided or, if one is not available take it home for disposal
7. Be Sensible
If you or anyone in your household are showing any Coronavirus symptoms, stay home and do not visit the play park.
PlayBoard, the lead agency for play in Northern Ireland have been working closely with councils to support the reopening play parks. Speaking about the reopening Alan Herron, PlayBoard Director of Service Delivery and Development said “Play is a fundamental part of children lives, providing opportunities to develop physical, emotional and mental health and wellbeing, establish new friendships and develop new skills.
Commenting on the impact of the lockdown on play Alan said “Research currently being undertaken by PlayBoard has shown that the period of lockdown has had a significant impact in restricting children’s play and we welcome the reopening of play parks as a further step back towards normality.
With regards to the level of Covid-19 transmission risk in play parks, Alan said “Emerging scientific evidence suggests that the level of Covid-19 risk to children, particularly in outdoor locations such as play parks is low in comparison to other groups in society. Providing play parks do not get excessively busy and that the guidance is adhered to the level of risk should be low”.
A copy of the guidance can be downloaded from the PlayBoard NI website at www.playboard.org.
PlayBoard are currently looking for children and young people to complete a survey on the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on their play. The survey is open to those aged 5 to 18 years of age and be accessed at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/PBYourVoice.