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'This is a sanctuary': Parks offering respite from Covid-19

With recommendations to stay home, and restaurants, movie theaters and other places where people congregate closed, many Western New Yorkers are taking advantage of sunshine and almost-springlike weather and turning to public parks and trails to recharge.

"I would be going completely stir-crazy," said Andrew Gay, who was at Delaware Park Sunday. "My business is shuttered, and I thought I would be happy staying at home, and I'm just not. This is a sanctuary."

At Martin Luther King Park, Cassandra Eubanks got out of the house by taking a stroll around the park twice with daughter Ziaire Ferrell, 16, and son Zhane Ferrell, 12.

"We wanted some air and exercise," Eubanks said. "We giggled, walked and when they go in they'll get a snack and then go back to homework."

Keisha Clark took a walk in Front Park Sunday. She said she's afraid of gaining weight by being tempted to eat while staying indoors because of Covid-19.

Keisha Clark was at Front Park to work off calories.

"I'm here because my gym is closed and I don't want to get fat," Clark said. "There really is nothing to do but sit in the house and eat.

"I don't want to go to back to work whenever they open it and be so big, so I go to the park to walk."

The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy put out a statement to remind people the parks were open despite Covid-19, and that "social distancing is not social isolation."

"The parks are open to everyone, and while we advise park users to respect social distancing and personal hygiene, the Conservancy reminds you of the amazing value of open greenspace," said Stephanie Crockatt, the Conservancy's executive director.

"Take a walk, ride your bike, go for a run, find solace and lift your spirit," she said.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Sunday he's concerned about crowding in parking lots at Delaware Park and Chestnut Ridge Park in Orchard Park. He urged residents on Sunday to visit different parks, including ones known to have fewer visitors.

"Folks, we have 10,000 acres of parks to enjoy," he said of the county parks system.

McCoy-Local -Covid-19-Sunday-Niawanda Park-2020

Ellen Sanders-Noonan of Kenmore enjoys a walk Sunday at Niawanda Park in Tonawanda. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

Curtis and Ashley Snowden said their 5-year-old daughter Sidra had been restless inside all morning, so they took her to the Front Park playground.

"We decided with the sun out we would come out and get some fresh air," Ashley Snowden said. "There's no one here so we're kind of keeping our distance from everyone."

Kelly Kell said she couldn't remember ever seeing so many people at Delaware Park in March. Brittany Leyden, who was walking with husband Ryan, 1-year-old Avery and Sasha the dog, thought it had more to do with people itching to get out of the house than the weather.

"It's made it a lot easier getting through this situation with the ability to walk and see other people from afar, and still feel you're part of society," Leyden said.

Ellen Stay said her park routine was more important than ever.

"Thank goodness we have the parks still," said Stay, walking her dog Rooney, a black Labrador mix. "It's the one thing that we can continue to do to get outside and get fresh air and sunshine a couple times a day.

Tim Overton, who lost his job Friday as a truck driver because of Covid-19, was on a walk with a friend and his dog, Zeus.

"We're just trying to take it slow and try to stay safe," he said.


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