For the past four months, COVID-19 has placed enormous demands on our parks. We have kept the majority of our parks open while facing significant capacity challenges and safety issues. In fact, results from a scientific survey conducted by the Park District on park and trail use during COVID-19 show that the public views Regional Parks as an essential service that should remain open. The District is now soliciting public feedback through an online survey.
Keeping parks open at this time has also presented challenges. More people in parks has meant more user conflicts, misbehaving dogs, trash collection, and lost/injured hikers, among other impacts – all while facing a park staff shortage and constantly changing state and local health orders.
At the same time, fire dangers have continued to grow – demanding increased wildfire fuels reductions and readiness.
We are proud of our efforts and work to keep parks open over the past few months, with over 99 percent of the Park District’s 125,000 acres of parklands, 55 miles of shoreline, and 1,300 miles of recreational trails remaining accessible for walking, hiking, biking, and horseback riding. A new episode of OpenRoad with Doug McConnell highlights how the parks have provided an essential service for public health and physical and mental well being during the pandemic.
In a recent East Bay Times OpEd, Rep. Mark DeSaulnier and former Rep. George Miller highlighted the importance of outdoor recreation, citing how federal funding is needed from Congress to meet the rapidly rising demand. We are truly grateful that, in light of this need and many years of advocacy, the Great American Outdoors Act was signed into law on August 4.
We look forward to reopening additional areas as soon as possible, including boating and kiosks. Unfortunately, the Park District’s swim areas will not open this year.
Be safe, and see you in your Regional Parks!
Robert E. Doyle
Dave Mason, Public Information Supervisor