Nowhere to Play

Eden Village Park

Spring riders at the Eden Village Park are wrapped in caution tape that reads "FIRE LINE DO NOT CROSS."

Playgrounds have been blocked off using bright yellow caution tape to keep children from playing on them due to Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the caution tape protects children from spreading and contracting the virus, it gives the generally joyful and youthful space the eerie feeling of a crime scene. COVID-19 has turned some of the busiest communities into ghost towns, and the taped off playgrounds add yet another haunting layer to the devastating effects of the pandemic.

I took photos of various playgrounds in my hometown of Eden, Wisconsin. Although Eden is a small village just shy of a thousand people, there are several parks and playgrounds for children and families to visit within the community. These are spaces I grew up playing in and associate with happy memories such as impromptu neighborhood softball games and community summer picnics. The yellow caution tape that now surrounds them exudes a contrasting image more reminiscent of a crime scene than a safe place for kids to play.

I visited and photographed each of these playgrounds from my childhood to document COVID-19’s impact. I started by taking a photo of the entire playset or park, then got a closer look at the caution tape around different pieces of equipment. This included swings, slides, monkey bars, climbing walls, merry-go-rounds, sand diggers, teeter-totters, basketball courts, soccer fields and baseball diamonds, all left empty by the virus and marked off by bright yellow tape to caution children from getting too close.

Many aspects of normal life have been disrupted by COVID-19. This is especially true for children who have been pulled out of school and are now stuck at home with nowhere to play. What once served as a joyous space for community gatherings and fond childhood memories now bears the eerie resemblance of a crime scene.