‘Human parking spots’ could help Philly residents keep social distance at parks

Philadelphia officials are considering painting circles onto parkland to help visitors maintain social distancing recommendations.

Circles drawn on the lawn of Domino Park in Brooklyn help enforce social distancing guidelines. (Two Trees Management)

Circles drawn on the lawn of Domino Park in Brooklyn help enforce social distancing guidelines. (Two Trees Management)

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Nearly 7,000 signs encouraging social distancing adorn Philadelphia’s parks, playgrounds and trails.

The signs act as a reminder to visitors to wear masks and keep a distance —  but there are no physical lines to indicate how close or far apart visitors are to one another when using the space.

This past weekend, as the sun lured people across the quarantined-out East Coast outdoors, one park in Brooklyn debuted a system for doing just that.

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Images of the approximately 30 circles painted onto a fake grass lawn at Domino Park outside a former sugar refinery along the East River in Williamsburg immediately went viral with a clear and clicky illustration of what it means to be together apart in public. The circles are each eight feet in diameter and six feet apart.

Visitors started using the circles properly almost immediately, according to a spokesperson for Two Trees, the real estate development firm that manages the park.

New Yorkers — some donning masks and others not — settled into the circles over the weekend to soak up the sun without bursting their quaranteam bubbles.

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Philadelphia Parks & Recreation officials are keeping an eye on the New York model, said Maita Soukup, a spokesperson for the Parks & Recreation department.

While “no final decisions on the use of such a tactic have been made at this point,” some of the city’s most popular park sites, like Lemon Hill or FDR Park, “could be good test locations if we decide to test out these options,” said Soukup.

Parks officials are also actively talking about options in anticipation of the city’s reopening.

She said the city is looking at partnerships with “local arts organizations and community nonprofits” to help encourage social distancing in parks and other public spaces.

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Philly’s Mural Arts program has already dispatched local artists to paint distancing guidelines and other public health messages on walls and floors across the city.  Parks could be their next destination.

Soukup said the department is currently developing a plan to work with safety “ambassadors.”

“This is a moment that is pushing us to be more innovative and creative than ever before,” said Kathryn Ott Lovell, commissioner of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. “As restrictions loosen, Parks & Recreation will continue exploring new ways to educate and inform residents about how to safely use all of our parklands.”

For now, officials encourage all Philadelphians visiting parks to practice safe social distancing, clean up after their visit, and remain home if feeling unwell.

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