BEMIDJI -- School is out and many parents are finding themselves working from home.

With families enjoying more time together around the house, the Bemidji Parks and Recreation Department is communicating with residents to help families stay active and engaged.

Despite its office being closed, the Parks and Rec. Department's staff is still working via phone, email and social media to provide opportunities for the community. This includes daily online challenges, shared on sites like Facebook, that families can participate in. These challenges range from arts and crafts, to gardening and exercising.

Additionally, the department is providing online registration now for future programs and community garden plots once the pandemic subsides.

Parks and Rec. officials are also encouraging community members to join the department's Virtual 5K. Through the program, residents can run on their own, whether on a treadmill or outdoors, and send in a picture of their 5K to earn a medal. The registration is open until March 30 and costs $15 to enter.

Registration for the 5k is available at https://bemidjimn.recdesk.com. For those venturing outside for the 5K or other activities, the department is encouraging residents to observe social distancing.

Along with washing hands and carrying hand sanitizer, the department is asking residents to not use the trails if they have symptoms and to cover their mouth and nose with their sleeves when they cough or sneeze. Minimum distance for social distancing is six feet, so the department is asking those who use Bemidji Parks and Trails to maintain the distance and allow room when passing others walking or biking.

Minnesota state parks, recreation areas and campgrounds and other public lands are also remaining open for residents to enjoy. However, according to the state Department of Natural Resources, visitor centers and contact stations are closed. Visitors will instead pay through self-pay and informational kiosks located at each facility.

Minnesota State Park permits are also required for vehicles and can be purchased online before arrival at www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/permit.

At Itasca State Park south of Bemidji, closures include the Jacob V. Brown Visitor Center, the Wilderness Drive and the Fire Tower.

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