Amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, stay-at-home orders and new policies to prevent the spread of the virus, residents still find places to play in Pickerington's parks.

With the sun shining brightly and temperatures reaching into the 70s, Sycamore Creek Park was a hub of activity April 8.

Most of the people using the park off Covered Bridge Lane just south of Pickerington City Hall, 100 Lockville Road, appeared to be keeping recommended social distances of 6 feet or more.

Three skateboarders used the skate ramps on one end of the park, and two teens practiced lacrosse passes on fields at the other.

Elsewhere throughout the park, two teens practiced soccer on a field outfitted with a goal and netting, children waded knee-deep in a rushing Sycamore Creek and individuals, couples and groups walked the paved trail that runs along the park's perimeter.

"Yeah, it's an almost every day thing that we're in the park," 17-year-old Max Schillig said as he passed a lacrosse ball with 18-year-old Cassidy Cubra. "We just want to get out of our houses for a little bit after we do some homework.

"Nowhere is open. So we figure we might as well get some exercise and get out."

Under Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine's stay-at-home order, people are permitted to visit parks but are being told to stay at least 6 feet apart from one another and to avoid groups of people.

Throughout Pickerington's parks, green spaces remain open, but in accordance with state mandates, playgrounds have been roped off since April 1 and are not permitted to be accessed.

City Manager Greg Butcher said the Ninja Warrior obstacle course in Sycamore Creek Park also has been closed.

Temporary fencing and signs have been put up to restrict access to picnic shelters throughout all city parks, and basketball courts have been fenced off and basketball rims have been sealed to prevent groups from playing pickup games.

"We have followed guidance from the governor's office and Ohio Department of Health," Butcher said. "City of Pickerington parks remain open to use walking trails and bike paths.

"In addition, the fishing pond at Sycamore Park is open. Naturally, social-distancing requirements are necessary during park visitation."

Butcher said "no restrictions have been placed on park visitation."

But in continuing to allow people park privileges, city administrators and Pickerington Police Department officers are staying vigilant to potential risky public-health behavior.

As of April 6, no citations had been issued for violating the stay-at-home order, Pickerington police Chief Tod Cheney said.

"An emphasis has been placed on the patrolling of neighborhoods, businesses and parks during the pandemic," Cheney said.

"Overall, calls for service are down, including traffic accidents, the limited enforcing of nonmoving traffic violations and the limiting of face-to-face contacts by our officers with the public, allowing for more general patrol time by our officers."

Butcher said the city and its police officers are taking a "common-sense philosophy of educating and, if necessary, warning those not in compliance with the provisions" of the stay-at-home order.

Cheney said violators could be asked to leave a park, depending on their violation.

"Parents of juveniles who are in violation may be contacted to pick up their child," he said. "We have issued zero citations. So far, warnings have sufficed to stop any violations."

In Sycamore Creek Park on April 8, Schillig, a Pickerington High School Central lacrosse player worked to keep his lacrosse skills sharp while Cubra indulged him and enjoyed the fresh air.

"It's been really nice," she said. "It's a way to get out of house instead of just staying inside all day.

"Being able to just walk around or throw lacrosse like this is nice. I've only been here and in my house."

Schillig said he hasn't seen most of his friends since the onset of the pandemic because many of their parents aren't allowing them to leave their houses or yards.

"I'm just happy our parents let us out," Cubra said.

Nearby by, Tim Pfeffer's four daughters, ranging in age from 10 to 14, waded ankle- and sometimes knee-deep in Sycamore Creek, as the waters rushed around them.

Aside from shrieks when flip-flop sandals floated down stream before being recovered, all was well with the group.

"It gets crazy," Pfeffer joked. "I mean, do you want this in your house?"

Pfeffer said the family has regularly visited Sycamore Creek Park and Pickerington Ponds during the stay-at-home order.

In addition to wading in the creek, his girls have enjoyed getting outside and drawing wildlife, but the jury was still out on how much some of them reveled in close encounters with garter snakes at Pickerington Ponds.

"My 'city girls' are not used to wildlife," Pfeffer said. "We found a snake, and they were freaking out. I said, 'It'll be OK.' They think this is country."

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