Watauga County will close playgrounds, courts, picnic shelters Monday

Moss Brennan, Political Editor

Watauga County, in conjunction with the Towns of Beech Mountain, Blowing Rock, Boone and Seven Devils, will close all playgrounds, courts and picnic shelters, effective March 30 at 12 p.m. until further notice.

The closure also applies to school playgrounds. Childcare facilities will still operate as they are exempt from this closure.

The closures are a preventative measure to slow the spread of COVID-19 and lessen its impact on the Watauga County community, according to a press release from AppHealthCare.

As this situation evolves, Watauga County and partner municipalities are monitoring usage of recreation facilities to determine if further action is warranted for social distancing. Watauga County is also taking precautions to ensure the health and safety of its residents during this situation.

Moss Brennan
Jaycee Park off of Blowing Rock Road has signs informing people the playground is closed because of the most recent executive order.

“During this difficult time, we recognize everyone will need an outlet for physical exercise to help manage stress and support their overall physical health. Therefore, we have kept the use of trail and walking areas open for now. However, we are encouraging people to continue to avoid using any facility if they feel ill, have a fever, a cough, and to keep six feet between themselves and others,” said County Manager Deron Geouque.

According to Executive Order 121 issued by Governor Roy Cooper Friday, “outdoor activity” is an essential activity North Carolinians may leave their homes for.

“(People are allowed) to engage in outdoor activity, provided individuals comply with social distancing requirements and mass gatherings, as defined below, such as, by way of example and without limitation, walking, hiking, running, golfing or biking. Individuals may go to public parks and open outdoor recreation areas,” the order states.

Geouque also confirmed that the Greenway Trail, a popular spot in Boone, will remain open. If it is deemed there are too many people using it or people are not practicing social distancing, it will be closed.

These new guidelines will be incorporated as part of the existing Watauga County state of emergency that is in effect through the course of this public health emergency.

“It is becoming clear to us that there are some in our community that are not taking this risk seriously. Please, I cannot stress enough how critical it is for you to help protect all of us through your actions. Governor Cooper’s updated executive order clearly bans gatherings of 10 or more people starting Monday, March 30,” said AppHealthCare Health Director Jennifer Greene. “We expect people to follow this order to help protect the entire community. Now is the time to think of others and know that this illness can be severe. We need everyone to take this responsibility seriously and we need to urge everyone at higher risk for severe illness to stay home as much as possible.”