Seven months after Menlo Park's playgrounds were roped off with caution tape and closed to the public, the city's youngest residents will soon have their jungle gyms back – but must abide by some new rules of play.
The Menlo Park City Council voted unanimously close to midnight on Tuesday to reopen the playgrounds and dedicate $49,500 to safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among children who play there.
Of that, $40,000 was set to pay for weekly cleanings of the city's 14 playgrounds for 10 weeks at a cost of $4,000 per week, $6,500 was for a vendor contract to operate and maintain handwashing stations at the playgrounds, and $3,000 was for new signs at the playgrounds.
The California Department of Public Health issued new guidance on Sept. 28 laying out instructions for how communities could reopen playgrounds.
New rules, as mandated by the state health department, include the following:
– Visitors 2 years and older must wear face coverings at all times.
– Visitors must maintain six feet of social distance from others at all times.
– All children must be supervised to ensure they follow the above rules.
– Visitors must wash or sanitize their hands before and after play.
– Eating and drinking are not permitted in the playground
– Visitors must follow the posted maximum number of children allowed. No new children may enter until others leave.
– Visitors should limit playground time to no more than 30 minutes per day when others are present.
– Seniors and people with underlying medical conditions should avoid the playgrounds when others are present.
While Councilwoman Catherine Carlton voted to approve reopening the playgrounds, she expressed skepticism that children would abide by the mandates. "I don't think it's safe. I don't think anybody's going to follow the rules," she said.
The playgrounds will open no later than Oct. 29, and city staff are working to try to open earlier, if possible. The exact opening date will be announced soon, according to Sean Reinhart, library and community services director.
Of Menlo Park's total count of 14 playgrounds, three are not open to the public and are reserved for participants in the city of Menlo Park's childcare programs. They are located at the Belle Haven Child Development Center, the Belle Haven Youth Center and the Menlo Children's Center.
The city's 11 public playgrounds are as follows: Belle Haven School Tot Lot (Ivy Drive and Chilco Street), Burgess Park (701 Laurel St.), Hamilton Park (545 Hamilton Ave.), Jack Lyle Park (500 Arbor Rd.), Karl E. Clark Park (313 Market Place), Nealon Park (800 Middle Ave.), Seminary Oaks Park (Seminary Drive at Santa Monica Avenue), Sharon Park (1100 Monte Rosa Drive), Stanford Hills Park (2400 Branner Drive), Tinker Park (1550 Santa Cruz Ave.) and Willow Oaks Park (490 Willow Rd.).