Canes Covering Coronavirus, Florida, Vero Beach

My local park is busier than ever, thanks to COVID-19

Emmalyse Brownstein
Vero Beach, Florida
Riverside Park on Dahlia Lane
6:15 p.m. Wednesday April 1, 2020

My local park is busier than ever, thanks to COVID-19

Seventy degrees, sunny, and not a cloud in the sky. It would’ve been a perfect spring day if we weren’t in the midst of a global pandemic.

About half a mile and just a five-minute bike ride from my house, Riverside Park sits on both sides of Dahlia Lane.

It’s a place I’ve been going my entire life — whether it be to play a tennis match, walk along the Indian River Lagoon or have a picnic under the oak trees. Today, plenty of people — probably more than I’ve ever seen — were doing all of those things.

This park has a lot to offer the community — sidewalks, open grass fields, boat docks, jogging trails, tennis courts, picnic tables and even a scenic island on the river. Vero Beach has a relatively small and largely retired population of about 17,000. Things are usually quiet — I might pass five to 10 people on any given day at the park.

But today — a Wednesday evening, no less — I must’ve seen somewhere close to 100.

This isn’t the only park in Vero Beach by far, but it’s the prettiest and most well-known in my opinion. I think it’s underused most of the time because it’s a bit removed from where the majority of the population lives, many seem to prefer going to a gym to work out and it’s increasingly rare that people have time to do anything for leisure.

But right now, it feels like we have all the time in the world.

All 10 tennis courts were occupied. On some courts, families were playing doubles, and on others, couples practiced their serves. Use of the courts is currently free because the Raquet Club is closed, but still, I’ve never seen it that full.

The exercise trails were even more packed — young adults jogged in sporty leggings while retirees power-walked with weights in hand. I also saw several families walking together, too. But most of the kids had headphones on. You can’t win them all, I guess.

Near the docks were several parked, empty boat trailers awaiting the return of their owners after a day on the Indian River Lagoon.

Who could blame them? The beaches here are closed, so boat owners might as well take advantage of their key to the sea while they still can.

Near the river, elderly folks walked their dogs, teenagers kicked around a soccer ball and several couples lay in the grass to catch the afternoon sun. The swing set and playground were even being played on — a rare sight indeed.

From what I saw, the groups were under 10 people and seemed to be made up of loved ones. The park didn’t feel overcrowded or dangerous by any means. People kept their distance from each other. The anomaly was in the fact that the park hardly ever gets that much use, even though I think this is how it should always look. 

It was nice to see that a situation like this could get people out of their houses, and especially with their families. But I wish it didn’t take a viral outbreak to make my hometown community so lively and appreciative of our beautiful outdoor areas.

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April 9, 2020


Leah Harper

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