Public health officers agree that outdoor open spaces provide an essential service during this unprecedented pandemic, and Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Midpen) looks after 65,000 acres of it, including hundreds of miles of trail. With shelter-in-place orders in effect in the San Francisco Bay area, there are limited venues for people to escape, to exercise, and to nourish their mental health. As a result, Midpen’s 26 open space preserves are busier than ever, with parking lots reaching capacity daily and ranger services in high demand. Staff also work year-round to help plants and animals thrive throughout the greater Santa Cruz Mountain region, a job that includes fire management. Field and maintenance crews have to report onsite daily, so Midpen has to maintain productivity and keep its essential workers safe.
The majority of Midpen’s staff were able to pivot to remote work, but a significant number of essential workers, such as rangers and facilities staff, have needed to report onsite. Midpen is using technology as one way to help ensure staff safety, creating a COVID-19 Health Check Application that confirms staff are healthy before they report onsite.