April 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 36

WILDFIRE

" It was terrifying, but it was also
really inspiring to see how people jumped in, " Kenny Weigandt,
community engagement manager at the Willamalane Park and
Recreation District, recalls. " The
smoke and the ash really caused a
huge, prolonged issue for us. "
Experience responding to the
coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic proved helpful in the district's
response to the wildfire. Many
staff were able to continue coordinating relief efforts because of
the remote-work technology and
policy that they had implemented
for COVID-19. The district also
had a crisis communication plan
ready. This plan includes a process
for communicating updates to staff
first during a disaster - which
includes anything from wildfire
and floods to medical events and
COVID-19 to security breaches -
and sharing this information to the
public and media outlets.
The district became an informa-

tion hub for the community and
press. People were encouraged to
stay indoors to minimize exposure
to the hazardous air, updated about
the status of the wildfire and given
information about where to donate
and access resources. " We were
connected to partner agencies and
were able to help joint communication, " Weigandt says.

Coming Together for a
Collective Response
As a relatively large district with 46
parks and four indoor facilities, the
Willamalane Park and Recreation
District decided to put some of its
resources to good use during the
crisis. It designated two of its indoor facilities, the Bob Keefer Center and Adult Activity Center, as
smoke respite shelters. The district
quickly found out that it needed air
scrubbers to clean the smoke out of
its HVAC system, which was pulling outside air into the building.
The city of Springfield provided air

scrubbers to the district so it could
continue operating these facilities
as daytime shelters. These facilities
provided access to clean air and
water, restrooms, Wi-Fi and parking. " It was really valuable for people who needed it, " Weigandt says.
" The most important thing
that we learned during this is you
have to rely on your partnerships
with other municipalities or likeminded agencies, " Weigandt says.
The district joined a collective
community response, communicating and coordinating relief efforts
with the Red Cross, local school
district, neighboring park agencies, utility board and the health
department. Through this effort,
the district learned that firefighters needed a site to stage response
that was outside the burn zone but
close enough to quickly get to the
wildfire. The district offered one of
its park areas and firefighters used
that location to coordinate efforts
and take breaks between shifts.

King County Prepares
for Wildfires

PHOTO COURTESY OF MECKLENBURG COUNTY PARK AND RECREATION

Increasing numbers of wildfire
events are prompting many park
and recreation agencies to prepare
by gathering data and implementing plans. One such agency is King
County Parks and Recreation in
Seattle.
As a changing climate brings
more flooding and tree stress, it
also brings wildfires closer to the
Puget Sound area in Washington
state. " We're seeing increasing evidence that we better be ready, "
says Sarah Brandt, King County Parks open space government

36	 Parks & Recreation

The Mecklenburg County (North Carolina) Park and Recreation department
conducts prescribed burns in its nature
preserves to restore native plant species
and protect against wildfire.
| A P R I L 2 02 1 | PA R K S A N D R E C R E AT I O N .O R G



April 2021 - Parks & Recreation

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of April 2021 - Parks & Recreation

April 2021 - Parks & Recreation - Cover1
April 2021 - Parks & Recreation - Cover2
April 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 1
April 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 2
April 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 3
April 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 4
April 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 5
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April 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 56
April 2021 - Parks & Recreation - Cover3
April 2021 - Parks & Recreation - Cover4
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/july-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/june-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/may-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/april-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/february-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/january-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/december-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/november-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/october-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/september-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/august-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/july-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/june-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/may-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/april-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2021
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com