FEATURE — October 23, 2020 at 9:23 pm

Students’ favorite local places change during the COVID-19 pandemic

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The breeze refreshes your sun-kissed, warm face. Earbuds bursting with music hang on your ears, curled around a face mask. Your legs pump your bicycle energetically to propel yourself into the cool scenery of grass and trees intermingling after a fresh rain.

For many students, exploring one’s neighborhood is a refreshing break from the longer periods of time spent in the house under COVID-19 quarantine. One can experience a refreshing change in scenery, socialize and pursue activities such as studying, biking, jogging, swimming and other sports. While much of the outdoors is open to the public, some businesses, highly frequented areas and indoor spaces are restricted by curfews, closures or limits in traffic.

Sparsely populated, the Pine Trails Park playground is open to those who follow the park’s COVID-19 precautionary guidelines. Photo by Nya Owusu

“I’ve been going to Pine Trails Park, especially since the pandemic,” Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School junior Thomas Heffner said. “I’ll usually ride my bike, walk or get a ride with some friends. We make sure to wear masks and get hand sanitizer.”

Similar to other outdoor areas, Pine Trails Park’s open-air setting and expansive fields allow visitors to follow social distancing guidelines much easier. Appealing to both younger and older students, the park is a popular spot for its open atmosphere.

Amidst the clouds and fields of grass, the Pine Trails Park amphitheater remains vacant, like many other once frequented areas. Photo by Nya Owusu

“I liked [the Plaza Del Lago clubhouse in Heron Bay] because it had a lot of things to do. It had a gym, a study area, a pool and two party rooms,” junior Raj Selvaraj said. “I also used to tutor there and I got a lot of customers there who were just passing by.”

In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, indoor areas such as community centers, restaurants, buildings and businesses have orchestrated partial or complete closures and limited some of their provided services. This has resulted in the decrease of these areas’ activities and social gatherings.

“[Florida Panthers Ice Den] was always really fun to go to at the end of the week with three or four friends to skate around while listening to music,” freshman Christina Garofalo said. “Especially if the week was stressful, it was something nice to look forward to.”

While the Florida Panthers Ice Den has closed public skating for the time being, the Plaza Del Lago clubhouse in Heron Bay is now in the process of reopening, with restrictions on the amount of people able to frequent the premises. As seen by the differing policies of these areas, monitoring updates of an area’s COVID-19 precautionary guidelines is essential.

“[The Plaza Del Lago clubhouse] closed down for a bit, which was sad, but then it opened up again,” freshman Nora Saleh said. “It’s really close to my house so me and my friends just walk there. There’s a huge pool, and it’s so much fun.”

Due to the usage of precautionary guidelines, students’ frequented areas, experiences and activities have changed since the COVID-19 pandemic. Some students have been unable to enjoy previously practiced activities and frequented areas, but they have found ways to create experiences and find connections while staying close to home.

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Angela Guiso is a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. She is a first year staffer for the Eagle Eye newspaper. Angela likes researching, drawing, and collecting mini glass animal figures.

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