County allows more access to parks and trails, but dog parks still closed

Posted on May 14, 2020 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Although dog parks remain closed, Sonoma County has eased restrictions on accessing parks and trails, allowing residents to drive to the facilities and park there. The order keeps Sonoma Coast parking areas closed to prevent crowding at beaches but allows coastal residents to walk or bike to nearby parks during limited hours.

“I feel comfortable reopening some parking lots and recreation areas as long as we remain diligent about hygiene, social distancing and face coverings,” Dr. Sundari Mase said. “Sonoma County residents have made an extraordinary effort to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Still, we must all continue to do our part and protect the progress we’ve made.”

Facilities that encourage gatherings or have frequently touched surfaces remain closed. These include playgrounds, dog parks, outdoor gym equipment, picnic areas, drinking fountains and barbecues.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the County has not issued or provided a list of what specific parks and lots are now or will be open. Park managers will determine on a park-by-park basis if they can open tennis courts, disc golf courses, basketball courts and other shared sports facilities in compliance with social distancing restrictions. Those rules limit use to a single individual or members of the same household. Under the previous order, park use was restricted to walking, hiking, jogging, bicycling, and fishing.

The new directive is the latest easing of a full parks closure ordered in late March when record numbers of visitors traveled to parks despite calls to shelter in place. Two weeks ago, Mase softened the closure to let residents use only those parks they could walk or bike to from their homes.

As previously mandated, Mase’s order requires park visitors practice social distancing and wear face coverings if they come within 6 feet of other visitors. It also encourages park users to limit their travel by continuing to walk or bike to parks near their homes.

“We’re very pleased more residents will be able to reach their parks for essential exercise,” said Susan Gorin, chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. “The loosened restrictions mean our collective effort to slow the virus’ transmission is working. But as we enjoy parks, we must be vigilant about protecting ourselves and others. Please use parks close to home, wear a face mask when social distancing isn’t possible, and follow new rules meant to keep us all safe.”

The health order applies to all parks, trails and recreation areas in Sonoma County, including those managed by private organizations, such as Jack London and Sugarloaf state parks.

“This public health emergency is going to continue into the foreseeable future, and the parks and services we provide are going to be increasingly critical for maintaining the physical and mental health of our community,” said Bert Whitaker, director of Sonoma County Regional Parks. “We’re pleased to be helping residents get back to their parks.”

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