Families enjoy reopened parks in Lee County to start Memorial Day weekend

Writer: Jack Lowenstein

Kids itching to get back on the playground are out enjoying the sunshine.

Lee County reopened playgrounds, pools, splash pads and pavilions at parks Friday.

The kids are happy to play, and everyone’s hoping they can do it safely.

We visited Lakes Regional Park in south Fort Myers Friday, where parents we spoke to were excited to be at the park with their kids.

Kids have been stuck inside for the last couple months during the coronavirus pandemic— no school, no after-school activities and no time to meet with friends.

But Lee County gave families a chance to get outside to start Memorial Day weekend.

“We’re just happy to be out and swinging on the playground,” parent Phil Merola said.

Merola was glad to get his three daughters out of the house and grateful Lee County lifted the restrictions and opened up the playgrounds. His girls raced to the slides when they arrived at the park.

“You got to get them out of the house; otherwise, they’re going to go crazy,” Merola said.

Merola told us he doesn’t worry his kids are at risk of getting sick.

“You have to lift these things eventually anyways, and I think it’s about time,” Merola said.

At Lakes Park, we saw no signs of oversight. Parents and kids visited and had to uphold safety behaviors based on the honor system.

“Obviously, we take precautions and wash your hands afterwards,” Merola said. “Even my 6-year-old knows about the 6-foot rule, you know. So it’s in everybody’s mind already.”

Mike Kirsch, who is visiting from Chicago, brought his kids to the park on the last day of their vacation.

“We’ve been kind of cooped up,” Kirsch said.

So Kirsch and his kids took advantage of their one chance to get on the playground before heading home.

“It feels good. It’s the first day the parks are open,” Kirsch said. “Figured we have one day before we go back to Chicago where the parks are closed again up there.”

Kirsch is another dad who is not worried his kids will get sick at the park.

“We’re willing to kind of accept it at this point and be careful and keep our distance,” Kirsch said. “Sanitizer for after we’re done and for in between different activities.”

Like everything else, if we pack playgrounds and parks and fail to practice social distancing, city or county leaders could close them back up again.

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