SITES' COVID-19 guidance for parks and other outdoor spaces

Published on
24 Jun 2020
Paul Wessel
Article Headers (16)

“Spend more time outside. Since April, we’ve learned a lot about indoor versus outdoor transmission of the coronavirus. Early on, we closed parks and told people to stay inside their homes. But studies have since shown that being outdoors with appropriate distancing carries a lower risk of getting the infection than being indoors.” - Dr. Marty Makary, surgeon and professor of health policy at the John Hopkins School of Public Health in How to Reopen America Safely

The impact of COVID-19 will be felt for years to come—on the economy, on people and on our way of life. Remaining resilient—both in business and in life—will require every industry and individual to adapt at a pace we might never have thought possible. In response to COVID-19, USGBC and GBCI have outlined a series of actions and priorities that will support a global recovery effort and leverage the power of our community to shape a healthier future for all. 

Read about USGBC and GBCI’s global recovery effort.

The SITES community knows that nature and sustainable strategies generate ecosystem services that protect and improve a community’s resiliency and quality of life. Accordingly, accessibility, safety and wayfinding; equitable site use and support for mental restoration, physical activity and social connection are already central to the SITES Rating System. 

In response to the current pandemic and in line with USGBC’s global economic recovery strategy, SITES is developing ways to make health and safety an even stronger priority for a smart, equitable and sustainable recovery. Our first step is the introduction of the SITES Safety First Pilot Credit, which was announced earlier today and is intended to promote best practice requirements in operations and management of landscapes, parks and other outdoor spaces to take precautions against the spread of COVID-19. USGBC President and CEO Mahesh Ramanujam will discuss this pilot credit and his vision for the SITES Rating System at the upcoming SITES Town Hall on July 29th. Register to attend the SITES Town Hall.

Now, as “the recovery will happen in public space,” our collective challenge is to support access to parks and other outdoor spaces that encourage physical distancing and other COVID-19 safe practices. Fortunately, our community is resilient, resourceful and hard at work managing access to outdoor spaces for all of us to enjoy. See below for some of their work. 

Tools for reopening and staying open


Social equity and parks


Signage promoting physical distancing

Signage for users during the COVID-19 Pandemic is a creative opportunity embraced by parks and opens space managers across the globe. Find additional examples here.  

Thought leadership on public spaces and the COVID-19 pandemic


As more information is available, we expect to expand and refine the resources on this page with the best recommendations for precautionary measures in managing and visiting parks and outdoor spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Have ideas and insights? We would love to hear from you. Let us know what is important in your community during this time by filling out our survey or emailing us at

If you have questions on how to navigate certification amongst these unexpected circumstances, GBCI has created guidelines for some of the most frequently asked customer questions.