JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — The city of Johns Creek reopened some of its public park facilities on May 15, asking residents and visitors to continue to follow public health guidelines.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, visiting parks and trails is generally safe, so long as one follows basic precautions, and can even be beneficial to one’s physical and mental health. Parks allow individuals and families to get exercise, relieve stress, enjoy fresh air and take in vitamin D.

“We certainly want our park users to feel safe and be safe,” Johns Creek Recreation Manager Kirk Franz said. “Exercising and being healthy is something that’s really crucial right now. By opening up some of our park facilities, it gives our folks more opportunity to exercise and enjoy our parks.”

The CDC asks the public to stick to parks that are close to their home, stay at least 6 feet away from others while enjoying the greenspace, wash hands often and cover coughs and sneezes.

Playgrounds, organized activities and crowded parks should still be avoided. Do not visit parks if you are sick or were recently exposed to COVID-19.

“One of the caveats we have is that we’re still encouraging park users to social distance,” Franz said. “Whether they’re on our tennis courts or on our fields, we still want them to keep that in mind. I know people are anxious to get back to normal and play games, but based on the guidelines, we’re discouraging any pickup games or organized activities.”

In Johns Creek, athletic fields and tennis, bocce ball and pickleball courts are now open, but basketball courts remain closed. All walking trails and the Shakerag Park track are open, as well as picnic pavilions to groups with 10 individuals or fewer.

Park restrooms are now open, but all other indoor facilities remain closed, including Autrey Mill Nature Preserve’s Visitors Center and Historic Village, the Park Place Senior Center and the Newtown Park Community Clubhouse. Newtown Dog Park, the Mark Burkhalter Amphitheater and all playgrounds are also closed.

All park programs and events have been cancelled or postponed until further notice including the summer concert series, Movies at Newtown Park, athletic leagues, fitness classes, facility rentals, third party events and Lego Camp.

The cancelation of programing has been especially hard-hitting for Autrey Mill Nature Preserve. The nonprofit that operates the nature center typically sees about 75 percent of its income come from camps, classes and events. More than 50 Autrey Mill programs have been canceled since March, including field trips, rentals and home school sessions.

“We are struggling,” said Pam Sutton, vice president of the Autrey Mill board of directors. “Everything is canceled as far as program revenue right now. Never would we have thought we would have a situation where we would be unable to earn an income for this long.”

Although programing has been cancelled, families can still enjoy the nature trails and outdoor animal exhibits, Sutton said. Devotees of the preserve have been showing their support with donations, which can be made at gofundme.com/f/animal-oneyear-sponsorship or autreymill.org/support/.

Carson Cook is an Editor with Appen Media Group and covers Johns Creek, Dunwoody and Fulton County.

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