Frisco parks department helping people play at home and in public

Play Frisco shared a two-dimensional drawing of Walnut the squirrel that children are able to color and cut out to take part in different adventures with them. (Courtesy Play Frisco)
Play Frisco shared a two-dimensional drawing of Walnut the squirrel that children are able to color and cut out to take part in different adventures with them. (Courtesy Play Frisco)

Play Frisco shared a two-dimensional drawing of Walnut the squirrel that children are able to color and cut out to take part in different adventures with them. (Courtesy Play Frisco)

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Play Frisco's Natural Resources Division shared a chart that allows people to create their Frisco explorer name using their birth month and the first letter of their first name. (Courtesy Play Frisco)
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Walnut the squirrel visits "Fetching Water" by Janice Hart Melito at the George A. Purefoy Municipal Center. (Courtesy Play Frisco)
While Frisco is under a stay-at-home order because of the coronavirus pandemic, Walnut the squirrel has been seeing the sights and meeting lots of new people.

As the official mascot of Play Frisco, the city’s parks and recreation department, Walnut has visited the city’s public art, been to backyard campouts and even into pillow forts built by some of Frisco’s youngest residents.

“We've asked Frisco to really go on adventures with Walnut,” Director of Parks & Recreation Shannon Coates said.

Play Frisco shared a drawing of the two-dimensional squirrel that children are able to color and cut out. The cutout squirrel can take part in different activities, similar to the Flat Stanley cutouts that have traveled the world, Coates said.

Walnut and the rest of Frisco have been able to continue visiting the city’s parks and trails, which have remained open throughout the pandemic as long as people maintain social distancing. Coates said Play Frisco has staff members at the busier community parks from the early morning to 8 p.m. seven days a week.


“We’ve found that just having a presence out there is a good reminder for people about the social distancing [requirement],” Coates said.

While the parks and trails are open to the public, Coates said playgrounds, pavilions, game fields and tennis courts as well as Ruff Range Dog Park and the skate park at Northeast Community Park are all closed. Coates said the department also received some early reports of people still playing basketball, so staff took down the hoops.

“We’ve taken a lot of steps just to really help remind the community, and they’ve just been great going along with it,” Coates said.

During the April 7 City Council meeting, Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney said he has seen voluntary compliance with social distancing at all the parks and trails he has visited.

“I’ve used this opportunity the last few weeks to try to go to different parks and trails that I’ve never been to in Frisco,” Cheney said. “I’ve been out exploring, and it’s been great.”

Play Frisco is offering a number of virtual programs for those looking to explore closer to home. Frisco Public Library has offered similar services.

For those looking to run, Play Frisco wrapped up its own virtual 5K on April 12 and is now co-hosting the NTX Go the Social Distance 5K that continues through April 29. The department also has an eSports league that lets gamers play “Mario Kart,” “Super Smash Bros” and “FIFA 2020.”

The department’s Natural Resources Division has a nature bingo game that Coates said lets families explore their own backyards. The division also created a chart that allows people to create their Frisco explorer name using their birth month and the first letter of their first name.

With Frisco’s new senior center The Grove closed during the pandemic, Coates said the department has been able to repurpose the digital fitness instructor program Wellbeats that was purchased for that facility.

“For the entire month of April, we are able to make that accessible not just to our Grove members, but also to the [Frisco Athletic Center] members,” Coates said, adding the department has also shared fitness videos filmed by the center's instructors.

Coates said the virtual programs have been a big hit with Frisco residents, as Play Frisco’s social media accounts have seen lots of new followers and engagement.

“We're just really excited to see everybody so engaged and excited that they're remembering to stay active and to play because that's what we're trying to get them to do,” she said.
By William C. Wadsack
William C. Wadsack is the senior reporter for the Plano and Richardson editions of Community Impact Newspaper. He previously served as managing editor of several daily and weekly publications in North Texas and his native state of Louisiana before joining Community Impact Newspaper in 2019.


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