MIAMI (CBSMiami) – July is National Parks Month and for a cooped-up coronavirus weary nation local parks have provided a welcome refuge.

“I think there is a new sense of discovery of the meaning of parks in people’s lives. I think people realize that parks are crucial infrastructure for the community,” said Maria Nardi, the Director of the Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department.

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Miami-Dade manages 270 parks plus boat ramps and golf courses. They were all reopened when elected leaders decided to slowly bring the population out of “stay at home orders.”

“When we opened I think people felt a lot of concern that they were going to outdoors surrounded by other people. I think it gradually increased. Now I can tell you the golfing community and boating community were out in droves,” said Nardi.

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Eventually so were folks who just wanted “a walk in the park.” Fresh air and exercise suddenly became top of mind as was the urge to get outside.

“For a lot of people, they were using parks for the very first time in that way. I think it brings the community together. It was not just finding out they had a great park to go to, or instead of just driving by it they could bike to it, but also meet people they had never seen before” said Nardi.

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The county’s hope is for all those people who visited a park for the first time will continue to do so when the pandemic slows and the “new normal” is more like the “normal” we used to know.