Sure, the weather is crummy, the days are short, and pretty much every group activity is canceled for the foreseeable future. But why should that spoil the great outdoors?
That’s the driving philosophy behind “Go Play, Vancouver!” The initiative, a brainchild of Vancouver Parks and Recreation, is designed to give us all something to do together — just, you know, separately.
According to Melody Burton, spokesperson for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, the new program is a classic case of necessity breeding innovation.
“The program came out of discussions among Parks and Recreation staff thinking of ways that we can continue to safely support the health and wellness of our community while adhering to coronavirus prevention guidelines,” Burton wrote in an email to The Columbian.
“We know that regular physical activity is a key factor in mental and physical health, but that habit can be difficult to maintain in winter, especially this year when indoor options (like our community centers) are closed.”
Each week this winter, Vancouver residents receive a new call to action. The first was a bingo board, downloadable from the city’s website starting on Dec. 14, that challenged players to complete five tasks to win the game. Players need to check off boxes like “spy a bird’s nest,” “write a happy message in chalk,” and “splash in a puddle.”
Then there was the park-focused scavenger hunt, customized to residents in west, central and east Vancouver. (“Go back in time and visit the oldest public park in the state of Washington,” reads one clue for the west-side scavenger hunt. “It’s named after a woman who was born in Pennsylvania but had a big impact on the City of Vancouver.” Any guesses?)
The most recent challenge was a history-themed, 5-kilometer run around Fort Vancouver. The route had runners starting at Old Apple Tree Park, looping across the Vancouver Land Bridge, and swinging past Officers Row and the Pearson Air Museum.
There’s a small group of city staffers tasked with coming up with a new challenge each week, Burton said.
They adhere to a few parameters: each activity must be something that participants can do on their own schedule, it must be fun for all ages and abilities, and it must encourage people to get outside and move around.
As for upcoming challenges, Burton said, “I don’t want to give too much away.” The parks team is organizing a community-service oriented challenge, as well as “some artistic activities that celebrate the natural beauty of our parks,” Burton said.
Participants in each of the challenges are encouraged to take photos and post them online with the hashtag #goplayvancouver. They can also fill out a form, also available on the city’s website, and enter to win a weekly $25 prize. Although the window to win the prize for previous challenges has already passed, they remain online for anyone looking for something to do. Instructions are available in English, Spanish and Russian.
And if the program proves a hit, Burton said, it’s possible the city will continue “Go Play, Vancouver!” into sunnier days.
“We don’t have a firm end date for the program at this point,” she said. “It will run through the winter months and if there is interest, we may continue it into the spring as well.”
For more information, visit www.cityofvancouver.us/parksrec/page/go-play-vancouver.