inPRACTICE / PARKS & RECREATION: Pandemic? Hunt Monsters!
FV Monster Hunters // Fountain Valley, Calif.
Located in suburban Orange County, California, Fountain Valley is home to more than 150 acres of neighborhood parks, activity buildings and athletic facilities.
Like so many cities across the country, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic became apparent, the City of Fountain Valley was forced to cancel many events and close some facilities, such as the city's senior center. Typical summer events like a senior expo, concerts and movies in the park and more were cancelled, and the city's community services team looked to replace programs with supplemental virtual programming to keep residents engaged.
Meanwhile, community parks and related amenities were kept open, and residents were encouraged to get outdoors while practicing social distancing and adhering to health guidelines.
Asked about the impact of COVID-19, Recreation Coordinator Jake Hopkins explained, "We were unable to run our normal programming or special events. But our staff has strived to provide opportunities for recreation to the community."
One of those opportunities, the FV Monster Hunt, took place on Oct. 17, 2020, hosted by the Fountain Valley Recreation and Community Services Department.
To spread the word about the event, Hopkins said they promoted on social media. "We created a flyer that we shared on social media and with many community group pages," he said. "In addition, we created a video of one of our staff members explaining how the event would work."
Hopkins said that on the day of the event, participants arrived at the Monster Hunters Academy at the Fountain Valley Recreation Center and received their Monster Hunters Guide. The guide contained locations and clues for monsters playing in five of the city's parks.
Once the monster hunters found all five of the monsters, they returned to the academy and provided the code to prove that they had become expert monster hunters.
"We had approximately 300 children monster hunters participate in helping us catch all the monsters," Hopkins said.
The event was an excellent example of a COVID-friendly program and provided a great opportunity for community members to get out of the house and discover their local parks.
"This was our first event of this kind," Hopkins said. "But we have done many other events for our community while following all COVID guidelines. We are hoping to do more events like this in the future."
Much of Southern California, including Orange County, has been experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases over the past couple of months. Each state manages closures and mitigation measures differently. California has a four-tier system, and is assigned to a reopening tier based on the daily number of new cases and positivity rate. In addition, if ICU capacity drops below 15%, counties must enforce even stricter rules under a stay-at-home order. At the time of this writing, all of Southern and, indeed, most of Central California were under this strictest stay-at-home rule, which means, at least for now, that local parks and recreation organizations will have to continue to innovate to find ways to involve their community members in engaging activities.
Asked what advice he had for other park departments and districts looking to engage people in safe, socially-distanced programs, Hopkins suggested, "Ask people what they might enjoy, engage the community and have fun serving the community.
"When your community knows that you care, they rally behind you and enjoy everything that you offer," he added. "We need each other. A successful event or program is not possible without the community support, and our community needs opportunities, especially now, to enjoy life." RM
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