For more than a decade, Clifford Smith practiced archery three to four days a week at the range in Patsy T. Mink Central Oahu Regional Park in Waipio, until the March 21 closure of city parks due to the new coronavirus caused him to set aside his arrows and bows.
“It keeps — or rather kept — me healthy,” said Smith, 72, a retired elevator repairman and inspector who tried archery as a Florida teenager and took it up again 15 years ago, with his doctor’s approval, to help him rehabilitate after surgery for an injured rotator cuff.
Since the closure, his main exercise is walking 1.5 miles on a treadmill, which is less, he calculates, than the distance he walked across the park to access the range and back and forth between the firing line and target to retrieve arrows.
So Smith, who lives in Mililani, was excited when the city announced the May 15 reopening of outdoor courts and fields at parks for limited use, including one-on-one sports and exercise where 6 feet of social distancing can be maintained at all times, such as singles-only tennis and pickleball.
Since the roughly 15 target lanes at the archery range were set 15 to 20 feet apart, Smith said he assumed it would also be reopened. “So I drove up there, and there was another fellow there shooting and we shot for a few minutes” until they were informed by a park employee that the range was still closed.
“I’m guessing the unfamiliarity of people in authority with range operations is the biggest obstacle we face,” Smith said. “If they’d actually consider it, I’m sure the city would include archery along with tennis and pickleball.”
Smith, a longbow aficionado who has also practiced at the Kapolei Regional Park and Koko Head shooting ranges as well as the now-closed Kapiolani Park range, said the sport has few participants islandwide and doesn’t typically draw crowds. He estimates there are 30 to 40 regulars at the Central Oahu park.
“On a typical day, from dawn until dusk, you may see as few as one or two archers or as many as 10 or 15 at any given time,” he said.
If a rare overflow crowd shows up, archers, like tennis players, wait their turns, and unlike tennis or similar activities, there is no shared touching of playing gear.
Also like tennis and pickleball players, he said, archers bring their own equipment, apart from permanently installed nets or targets, and follow rules and safety procedures posted by the city.
Asked whether concerns about social distancing played a part in the city’s decision not to reopen its archery ranges, Nathan Serota, public information officer for the city Department of Parks and Recreation, said: “Yes, concern about gathering and crowds is a factor.
“We are looking forward to reopening this and other city archery ranges in the near future,” Serota said May 18.
Aiming to be helpful, one of Smith’s archery partners, who wishes to remain anonymous, drafted a set of proposed coronavirus safety rules that Smith emailed to the parks department Friday.
The suggestions include wearing face masks except when actively shooting; shooting while standing at the designated line, spaced at least 6 feet apart, with no more than two archers per target; and maintaining social distancing of at least 6 feet except between household groups, with no groups of more than 10 people in the area.
“We’re a small overall community, and I’m confident in our collective ability to remain cognizant of safety concerns while enjoying our sport,” Smith said, adding that he’s hoping for a constructive dialogue with the city.