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Power washing, high-grade disinfects: Inside Houston's plan to deep clean city playgrounds before reopening

With the stay-at-home order set to expire April 30, residents ask what is being done to ensure park amenities are safe and clean.

HOUSTON — Houston playgrounds and exercise equipment at city-ran parks are closed to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

With the stay-at-home order set to expire April 30, some residents are starting to ask what is being done to make sure park amenities are safe and clean ahead of reopening.

The city of Houston has responded with a plan to cover all its bases.

Houston's parks, greenways and trails are open, but playgrounds and exercise equipment are still off limits. Director of Houston Parks and Recreation Steven Wright said it was the only way to enforce social distancing.

“We saw an increase in foot traffic. The more people that went to the park, it was defeating the original purpose because of parks becoming overcrowded,” Wright said.

It was no picnic, but the city removed 450 basketball goals and hung over 1,500 signs at its 380 parks as reminder to visitors to keep their distance. 

Group gathering is just one obstacle. 

Wright said germs and bacteria that could stick and spread on frequently touched surfaces are another concern. The public still has access to some of those, such as water fountains.

“Right now, we're hoping that people understand to stay away and not use them,” Wright said.

While the city asks the public to make a few concessions, they are actively coming up with a game plan to make sure all park amenities are washed and sanitized before the public slides back in.

He said once the powering washing is complete, workers will need to go by and wipe down or spray the structures with disinfectant— and not with the stuff commonly found under your kitchen sink.

"There are products out there on the market that form an electrostatic prospective that could actually be sprayed on. And it would adhere to the surface and provide anywhere from 60 to 90 days of additional coverage,” Wright said.

Park leaders are researching all options. Wright said the products they are looking at are new, and the city wants to make sure taxpayers get the protection they are paying for.

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