GHENT — Art Omi is taking steps to keep visitors safe as the park increasingly becomes a green refuge for cooped-up county residents.
Amid concerns over community spread during the COVID-19 shutdown, Art Omi Executive Director Ruth Adams said the park is doing everything it can to encourage social distancing among visitors, including posting signs in the parking lot and around the grounds.
Starting on Saturday, an attendant will monitor the parking lot on warm days, Adams said.
After receiving several complaints of overcrowding, the Columbia County Health Department sent staffers to survey the 120-acre private park for social-distancing violations.
The Department of Health found no cause for concern, officials said.
“The message we have been getting from the Department of Health, the sheriff, the state is, ‘Please stay open, please continue to do what you are doing,’” Adams said.
As the weather gets warmer, Adams said Art Omi will continue to ensure that visitors follow all social-distancing guidelines, especially in the parking lot. But she noted that visitors have been diligent about maintaining space between groups and waiting for other groups to leave before entering the parking lot.
Concerns that visitors are coming to Art Omi from downstate are unfounded, Adams said. Art Omi conducted a survey of visitors and found the vast majority were local.
Three quarters of the survey’s respondents reported that they lived in Columbia County and 93% were from either Columbia County or a neighboring upstate county, according to Jessica Puglisi, Art Omi communications director.
After one incident in March where teenagers from different families were found to be sharing a frisbee, the park has not reported any problems, Adams said. Art Omi staff members and maintenance workers are monitoring the park, both on and off the clock.
“We have staff who go walking the park personally when they are not working. They go because they love it, and they report back,” Adams said.
Adams said Art Omi has been “flooded with gratitude” from community members who are thankful for the 120-acre private park’s art-filled open spaces.
“People are telling me, ‘I don’t know what I would do without a place to go and walk like this,’” said Adams. “People have said it is really hard to be at home with kids who are stir-crazy and this is a life-saver.”
Adams said Art Omi staff members are following all DOH guidelines as they maintain the park’s signage, landscape and repair sculptures. The maintenance staff work solitarily and use their own tools, she said.