Coronavirus: California parks still open, to some extent

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In a state alarmed by the rapid spread of the coronavirus, open spaces appear to be the only things that haven’t closed.

But with more than 1,000 cases of coronavirus infection now confirmed in California and awareness of hygiene and the cleanliness of common touch surfaces at an all time high, even local parks cannot escape the drastic efforts that governments locals are deploying to stem the spread of COVID-19.

The Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation announced that all of its outdoor exercise equipment, fitness areas and playgrounds are closed to the public starting Friday.

Until March 31, LA County parks will be “outdoor facilities only” where buildings and indoor spaces are closed to the public and it is essential to avoid close contact with others, officials said.

“We have posted that social distancing is required,” said Katie Martel, the department’s public information officer. “We have closed our playgrounds and posted warning signs and tape to block access. “

Similar restrictions can be seen in Long Beach, where all of the city’s playgrounds, dog parks, skate parks and golf courses will be closed from at least Friday to April 19, according to Jane Grobaty, head of the city. community information for the city’s parks, recreation and navy. department. Other areas such as the city beaches or the trails of the local El Dorado natural center, however, remain open.

Park play areas and outdoor fitness equipment are also closed until further notice in the city of Los Angeles, according to Ashley Rodriguez, spokesperson for the Department of Recreation and Parks.

California State Parks, which closed all of its campgrounds on Tuesday, has so far kept the trails and beaches open – with the added caution that visitors must maintain a six-foot buffer around them.

In an effort to reduce potential crowds, some jurisdictions have canceled or suspended bookings for events typically held in parks, such as barbecues or family reunions. Pasadena is one of the cities that has taken this step, according to Brenda Harvey-Williams, director of the city’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services.

“We are in the process of posting signage and placing temporary orange fences and duct tape around all play and fitness equipment,” she added.

What this city has not done, however, is close the parks or limit their hours. Far from being ghost towns, Harvey-Williams said there had been “a slight increase in usage – we compare the level to that on a summer day.”

Other cities have taken a different path. All of Malibu’s parks, for example, have been closed since Monday, according to the city’s deputy director Lisa Soghor.

For parks that remain open to the public, some cities say they have stepped up their disinfection and storage efforts.

Pasadena now cleans her public washroom three times a day, up from two, Harvey-Williams said.

At Long Beach, “the park’s stand-alone toilets are sanitized every morning and afternoon and, as staff are available, once again at noon,” according to Grobaty.

“Our maintenance staff will continue to do their regular morning cleanings with additional cleanings throughout the day,” Rodriguez said. “All outhouses and water fountains will receive additional cleaning and will continue to be serviced daily by housekeeping staff, including Sundays.”

Although Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered residents across the state to stay home unless necessary, officials said it was still okay to walk, run, hike or bike – and some park officials say it’s important for Californians locked in to have these outlets.

“We understand these are unprecedented times for our communities,” LA County Parks Director John Wicker wrote in a public message Thursday. “At times like these, our parks are often seen as havens of recreation and respite. We know you rely on our programs as consistent and critical resources. We hope these extraordinary efforts will contribute to the county and the world’s efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. “

Here and there were signs of something that looked like normal Friday.

Elysian Park hikers and joggers enjoyed one of the few hobbies left outside the home. The park, which primarily attracts residents of Echo Park, Silver Lake, and other neighboring areas, seemed no less crowded than a typical weekday morning. Without needing to practice social distancing, the dogs sniffed and formed friendships as usual.

In other places, the impact of the past few days has been more noticeable. The Griffith Park Observatory Trail, usually bustling with hikers and joggers, was quiet on Friday morning. Only an occasional person or couple sabotaged along the path – often skirting the edge of the wide path to maximize space between them and passing strangers.

Even in the open, officials say it’s important to be careful.

“Parks, hiking trails, and golf courses are always open as open spaces to walk around and enjoy,” Rodriguez said. “We just want to encourage people to keep practicing social distancing. “

Times editors Cindy Chang and Joel Rubin contributed to this story.


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