Brand Park & COVID-19: Balancing Fun and Safety in Public Spaces

Entrance Sign to Brand Park in Glendale, California

The world was placed on pause in March of this year when COVID-19 hit the global stage. Office buildings, universities, and entire cities were shut down to stop the spread of the deadly virus. But this pandemic did not just affect Harvard University or New York, it had a direct impact everywhere, including in one tucked away oasis in northern Glendale, California, called Brand Park, a combination public space and library.

Founded in 1956, Brand Park had seldom shut its doors to the residents of Glendale. That is, until it completely closed one weekend in April, 2020 when park officials locked the gates to prevent vehicle entry into the park. This was to encourage people to stay safe at home due to COVID-19. After complaints from the neighboring residential houses about cars blocking their driveways, the park officials decided to change course and open up the gates again, and started advocating different measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Sign on Brand Park Entrance Fence; “NO CAR access”

The city cancelled all organized sports, from little league baseball games to casual Sunday night soccer. Signs were printed and put up all over the park reminding visitors how to stay safe while out in public. Measures were also put in place to regulate hiking and the use of park facilities, including face mask requirements and social distancing. The information was clearly posted, but not all park goers complied.

Sign on the fencing of Brand Park’s Baseball Field
Dust settles on home plate at Brand Park’s Baseball Field

Onnig Bulanikian, Glendale’s director of Parks and Community Services, received complaints from park goers about people who were not wearing masks or who were congregating in large groups. He has had to deal with the COVID-19 crisis head on while also trying to keep residents happy.

Brand Park gets crowded in the summertime. While summer camps and baseball practices used to book up the fields and public spaces every day, the park facilities have been left open while these “organized” events have been cancelled. Although park goers are not supposed to use these spaces to hold public gatherings, people have still been throwing birthday parties and barbecues on the weekends. Regulating these spaces takes extra effort from park staff.

Brand Park and COVID-19: A Visual Investigation

A group of people take photos of a graduate on the steps of Brand Library

Soon after quarantine orders started to go into effect, Brand Library also closed. While the park is a space for Glendale residents to have fun and engage in recreation, the library serves a more specific purpose. Students may use the public libraries to check out books and to do academic research, while others may depend on the library as their only opportunity to use the internet or have access to a public Wi-Fi network. Gary Shaffer, Director of Libraries, Art & Culture for Glendale, knows the importance of libraries to the community. Under his watch, all Glendale libraries, including Brand Library, immediately began transitioning their resources to an online platform. Every resident of the city was mailed a library card to have access to a myriad of online resources (e.g. eBooks, eNewspapers, eMagazines, and online classes, as well as streaming music and videos). Although the buildings are closed, the libraries have continued to operate via the web.

Sign posted at Brand Library Indicating it is closed until further notice.

The city has faced challenges at Brand Park in balancing the need to keep residents both happy and safe at its facilities. Hopefully visitors will follow health regulations so Brand Park can remain open.