Southern California parks and trail closures due to concerns

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Crowds flocked to southern California parks over the weekend, raising concerns about the spread of the new coronavirus and, in some cases, causing closures.

Spending time outdoors was a Gov. activity. Gavin Newsom judged OK as cinemas, museums and shopping centers were temporarily closed last week. But he and others have also called for social distancing or keeping at least six feet of space between people.

Social distancing was inconsistent at best on Saturday as people converged on certain parks, beaches and trails. The parking lots were full of cars and groups of hikers gathered in some places to rest.

Newsom tightened the restrictions this week, saying parking lots would be closed at some state parks and beaches. Officials said Point Mugu in Ventura County, as well as neighboring lots of Leo Carrillo and Malibu Creek will be closed.

Newsom said it was understandable that people wanted to get out of the new stay-at-home order on the first weekend.

“When you’re out there and can’t even find parking on a beach, it suggests that you’re not going to be practicing social distancing and it may suggest that you might want to find a new location,” he said. he declared.

Earlier Monday, the National Park Service closed the popular Solstice Canyon in Malibu.

The Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority has announced it will close all its parks and trails, which includes those in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. The closure also applies to lands owned by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, as well as parking lots and access roads to the park.

“Our whole mission as an agency is to provide a space open to the public, especially in times of stress,” said Dash Stolarz, spokesperson for the agency. “But people are putting everyone at risk.”

Before the closure, rangers had put up signs to remind people of social distancing, she said. On the agency’s social media accounts, they begged people must heed the warning therefore the closures would not take place.

Sunday evening, the decision was taken to close the access.

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Why are the parks closing?

Rangers were in the rain overnight to close points, said Stolarz, who called the move heartbreaking.

Overcrowded conditions also create a problem for park staff, as there is more work to do and less space to do it safely, Stolarz said.

“Everyone has to be six feet apart. We did our best and couldn’t do it anymore.”

The closure began on Monday and it is not known how long it will last. Officials said they would continue to reassess every day.

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area closed the popular Malibu hiking site called Solstice Canyon.

Park superintendent David Szymanski said he did not want to limit access, but overcrowding there had become a concern.

Park and public health officials said they are closely monitoring public use and may close other places if social distancing cannot be maintained.

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Hikers walk a trail at Malibu Creek State Park on Saturday, March 21, 2020.

Which parks remain open?

California State Parks announced last week that it will close campgrounds, but its trails and parks have remained open.

“We were busy this Saturday but nothing to do with LA and Orange County beaches,” said Tyson Butzke, state parks superintendent at Ventura. The wet weather on Sunday calmed things down, he said.

While some parking lots will be closed, the trails themselves in these areas will continue to be open as long as people can practice social distancing.

Local parks were also making changes due to public health orders and coronavirus concerns. Port Hueneme closed its jetty last week. Several cities have closed toilets and playgrounds but kept their parks open.

The number of visitors on the trails of Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency area, which includes Wildwood Park, was well above expectations over the weekend.

“I don’t know if we’ve seen so many people on the trail before. It creates a legitimate safety concern for us,” said agency administrator Brian Stark.

People did a good job of social distancing on the trails, he said, but other areas, including trailheads and parking lots, were more crowded.

Walk-in areas

COSCA trails were closed Monday and Tuesday due to recent rains. From Wednesday, they were to reopen with some changes and new expectations for visitors.

At pinch points such as trailheads, the agency will create drop-in zones. Plans call for the addition of signs and for staff to direct trail enthusiasts. The agency was also considering other options, including closing some parking lots.

“Whether these areas remain open or not depends on the community following these rules,” Stark said. “If we don’t respect social distancing and don’t believe we can ensure compliance with state and county ordinances, they will shut down.” “

He urged people to look for less traveled trails or even stick to those within walking distance of their neighborhood. To find trails, go to http://www.conejo-openspace.org/trails.html.

“We believe the trails have great public value at a time like this,” Stark said.

“Social distancing is not normal for most people,” he said. “This is something we are going to get better at.”

A group of climbers assure their friends at Malibu Creek State Park on Saturday, March 21, 2020.

What to do on the trails?

  • Keep at least six feet from others.
  • Avoid groups.
  • Bring soap or hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid contact with frequently touched equipment.
  • Cover coughs or sneezes.
  • If visitors cannot maintain a social distance of 6 feet or more, leave the park.

Closures

Cheri Carlson covers the environment for the Ventura County Star. Contact her at [email protected] or 805-437-0260.


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