Park rangers in Ipswich to crack down on Easter picnics in open spaces

PUBLISHED: 19:00 09 April 2020

Christchurch Park, along with other parks around Ipswich, are staying open for exercise - but not for picnics or sunbathing.   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Christchurch Park, along with other parks around Ipswich, are staying open for exercise - but not for picnics or sunbathing. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN


Ipswich park rangers will enforce strict social distancing rules over Easter amid fears many people could ignore the lockdown in the fine weather – with reports some have even abused staff who have challenged them.

Already this week, rangers at Christchurch Park have had to break up family picnics, groups of young people playing football together and some people enjoying a drink in the sunshine.

Those activities are all banned – the only reason for visiting parks is to walk or run around them as part of the permitted daily exercise. Most people, when challenged, have accepted the comments from rangers – but a few have refused to comply and have sworn at them.

Officials and councillors are determined to keep the parks open – they are seen as vital for people who live in or very near the town centre to get their daily exercise. Those living in flats or small town houses have little opportunity to get outside otherwise.

However, they are determined to ensure everyone complies with the rules about taking exercise during the lockdown.

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A spokesman for the council said rangers would check on anyone who is seen sitting on a bench for more than a few minutes – and would challenge anyone who sat down on the grass to sunbathe or read a book.

“That does not constitute exercise,” the spokesman said.

The council understands that some people might like to sit on a bench for a short time while walking around the park – but if they are seen sitting for more than about five minutes, they can expect a ranger to ask them if they are feeling all right.

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The spokesman said: “We are keeping our parks and open spaces open and safe for exercising and we remind residents to follow government guidance, which states: ‘You can still go to the park for outdoor exercise once a day but only alone or with members of your household, not in groups.’

“The vast majority of people are following those guidelines but we want to remind the others that picnicking and gathering in groups for sunbathing and parties is not acceptable. Our parks staff are on hand to offer advice and to remind people of the guidelines and are doing a difficult job.

“They do not deserve to be met by abusive behaviour. Follow our dos and don’ts and keep the parks an enjoyable place for everyone.”

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