On Sunday, residents of the West Marin coastal town of Bolinas, armed with signs bearing messages like “If you are not from here, don’t come here,” blocked the only road to town in an effort to keep away the swarm of visitors. That same weekend, even more visitors jammed other West Marin coastal towns creating huge traffic jams, inundating local stores and putting vulnerable residents at risk because of unsafe social distancing.
This led the Public Health Division of Marin County Department of Health and Human Services on March 22 to issue an order to immediately close all 18,000 acres of Marin Park and open space land managed by Marin County Parks. The usual spring and summer crowds are causing big problems in the wake of the COVID-19 emergency.
“This is creating unsafe conditions for employees working at businesses that are staying open because they are deemed essential,” says Sgt. Brenton Schneider of the Marin County Sheriff’s Office, “those workers are being overwhelmed and they are fearful about all the close contact that they’re witnessing”
“We’ve seen written stories and on-air reports about all the possibilities for people to go enjoy nature and get out of the house, and that is contributing to the public health problem,” adds Dr. Lisa Santora, Marin County’s deputy public health officer. “Congregating in parks and the lack of social distancing is of great concern.”
Marin County status Update: March 22, 2020.
— Marin County (@maringov) March 23, 2020
Americans all over the country, many growing restless in the wake of shelter-in-place orders, have had the same idea: go into nature. It’s a good plan in theory, but one that is not working in the new coronavirus reality.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources on Sunday announced the closure of all state parks. Closures affect popular destinations like Rock Cut State Park in Winnebago County as well as Lowden State Park and Castle Rock State Park, both in Ogle County, and Starved Rock State Park near Utica. In Chicago, even the popular destination Navy Pier is closed through April 23, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot has closed the Lakefront Trail and parks near the lake to stop crowds from gathering.
San Francisco Bay Area
In Marin and San Francisco counties, due to shelter-in-place orders, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is closed until at least April 7. This area includes: Alcatraz Island, Presidio Visitor Center, Fort Point National Historic Site, Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center, Lands End Lookout, Marin Headlands Visitor Center, Nike Missile Site, Point Bonita Lighthouse and Stinson Beach. For now San Francisco parks remain open. The East Bay Regional Park District announced some closures on March 25 after huge weekend crowds created safety issues there.
Big crowds at Los Angeles beaches (photos and videos of people standing close together were widely reported on social media over the weekend) led Mayor Eric Garcetti to announce he was closing sports and recreation at all city parks and closing beach parking.
This weekend we saw too many people packing beaches, trails and parks. So we are closing sports and recreation at @LACityParks and closing parking at city beaches. That doesn’t mean gather elsewhere. This is serious. Stay home and save lives.
— Mayor Eric Garcetti (@MayorOfLA) March 23, 2020
Oregon State Parks announced the closure of all state parks until May 8.
Spring break revelers who were clearly ignoring safe-distance protocols on Florida beaches last week led Sen. Rick Scott to tell Fox News that “spring breakers have forced the shutdown” of beaches in Florida. Sen. Rick Scott, is in self-quarantine himself, after introducing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at a recent investment conference. One of Bolsonaro’s aides tested positive for COVID-19.
“I’m not gonna let it stop me from partying”: Some spring break visitors in South Florida lamented the restricted access to beaches and entertainment as public health and government officials race against the clock to curtail the spreading coronavirus. https://t.co/8gBUuhcskw pic.twitter.com/LQKBQO5SwG
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) March 18, 2020
As of this weekend, according to National Parks Traveler, almost 30 national parks are closed, while even more have partial closures and campground closures. Those closed include Muir Woods and Yosemite in California, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, Saratoga National Historical Park in New York and Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Hawaii.
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Daniel Jewett has been a Bay Area journalist for more than two decades, getting his start as editor of his hometown newspaper, the Foster City Progress. Jewett went on to serve as Associate Editor for Oakland and Alameda magazines before crossing the bridge to serve as Marin Magazine and Spaces’ Managing Editor. Jewett still calls Oakland home, where he writes and plays music with his wife in My Little Hum and hangs out with his chickens, bees and cats, Holly and Maple.