Check: Has COVID-19 Closed Your Bay Area Park?

While many parks remain open, most recreational programs and facilities — as well as playgrounds — are currently closed. (Ted Goldberg/KQED)

Updated Friday, April 3

We’re all going stir crazy, so we’re all headed outside. And that’s become a problem.

With Californians under lockdown from both state and local shelter-in-place orders, thousands of people used the weekend to get out into nature. It was an activity originally encouraged by shelter-in-place orders — but all those people overwhelmed parks, beaches and public spaces, making it almost impossible to maintain safe social distancing guidelines.

Now, state and local leaders are changing the rules for those spaces – and warning that they may further curtail outdoor recreational options if COVID-19 continues to spread relatively unchecked.

In California, a county public health officer’s order can limit access to lands managed by federal, state, tribal or city authorities in an emergency. It's a step that some counties, including Marin and Sonoma, have already taken.

UCLA law professor Sean Hecht said it’s always the job of health officers to “take measures as may be necessary to prevent the spread of the disease or occurrence of additional cases.” When there’s a declared emergency, Hecht said health officers can “take any preventive measure that may be necessary to protect and preserve the public health from any public health hazard.”

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On March 29, vehicle access was closed for all 280 California state parks. State campgrounds have also been closed for now. And new restrictions — as part of the extended shelter-in-place order — have closed enclosed dog parks, sport courts and skateboard parks, among other things.

Additionally, 49 public agencies, nonprofits and indigenous tribes have released guidelines for safe outdoor recreation during the shelter-in-place order. They recommend the following:

  • Go solo or with your family unit: Maintain 6 feet of distance between yourself and people you do not live with. Choose less frequented parks and trails. Do not park in a crowded parking lot or use a crowded trail. Do not hold social gatherings at parks or anywhere.
  • Stay close to home and avoid crowds: Look for nature nearby, now is not the time to explore or travel far from home. Some parking lots are close, so try not to drive if possible. Visit nature virtually — there are many options online.
  • Stay safe and healthy: Do not visit parks that have been closed by local authorities. Many restrooms and other facilities have been closed, so plan ahead before you go. Shorten your visit to ensure a safe experience for everyone. Stay home if you, or one of your family members, is sick. Leave no trace — garbage pickup is limited so pack out what you pack in.

We’ve compiled information on some favorite Bay Area parklands organized by county — check here before you head out.

Remember: No matter where you go to, it's best to stay at least 6 feet away from people outside your household and to make sure to follow proper hygiene guidelines.

Alameda & Contra Costa Counties

As of March 30, all picnic areas, restrooms, water fountains, swim facilities/areas, playgrounds, campgrounds, group campsites, back country campsites, sports fields, kiosks, and reservable facilities are closed at East Bay parks in Alameda and Contra Costa counties until May 1.

While many trails remain open, for now, additional park areas were closed on March 27. Check here for a full list.

Oakland

Several parks remain open, while buildings in them are closed.

“We encourage you to go outdoors and enjoy our parks, keeping a healthy distance from other people so that we help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf on March 17.

Berkeley

All play structures, playgrounds and basketball courts are closed. So are recreation areas, including Live Oak Community Center and the Willard Clubhouse.

According to the city of Berkeley’s website, “large parks with enough open space to support social distancing standards remain open.” But authorities caution residents not to "arrange outings to parks with people you don't live with.”

The city skate park, pickleball courts, the sports complex on Gilman Street, pools and multiple mini parks are closed.

Marin County

Marin County announced restrictions on access to all parks beginning March 22, under an order of the county public health department.

Officials ask that people not drive to beaches, open spaces or parks outside their neighborhoods. Residents may walk or bike to nearby preserves and parks that are open. Visitors may "continue to use paved pathways maintained by the County of Marin, such as the popular Mill Valley-Sausalito Multiuse Pathway along Richardson Bay and the Corte Madera Pathway along Corte Madera Creek, as long as people follow guidelines on social distancing."

Current closures impact more than 18,000 acres managed by Marin County Parks. Check here to see a full list of what restrictions are in place.

Additionally, federal authorities say Muir Woods, Alcatraz and Fort Point are shut down entirely. The campgrounds and visitor center at Point Reyes are closed through April 7. Meanwhile, Drakes Beach is already restricted to protect the elephant seal colony there until the end of March. Other rotating closures will protect other seal populations throughout the park until June.

Napa County

Parks are open, but users must comply with social distancing guidance.

San Francisco City and County

San Francisco Mayor London Breed has threatened to close parks if people cannot successfully social distance. But, according to officials with San Francisco Recreation and Parks, all of their "parks, trails and open spaces remain open to allow people to go outside and get some fresh air."

Park officials recommend individual activities, no group yoga and no swimming. But while parks remain open, most recreational programs and facilities — as well as playgrounds — are currently closed.

Officials have also closed Twin Peaks Road, parking lots at Ocean Beach, Beach Chalet and Marina Green — including Little Marina — and other areas to combat overcrowding.

At Yerba Buena Gardens, indoor spaces like Metreon — as well as outdoor areas like the carousel and the play circle — are closed until May 1.

While city officials are encouraging people to get out, they say that you should choose a park within walking distance if possible.

"What we're asking everyone to do during this health emergency is to limit your trip as much as possible," said Tamara Barak Aparton, spokesperson for San Francisco Recreation and Parks. "So it's fine to go outside. Good, even, to get a little exercise. And San Franciscans are very lucky because in this city, everyone lives within a 10-minute walk to a park."

Barak Aparton said park rangers are out at various sites, but are focused on education rather than enforcement.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Officials with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) have been recommending that people practice distancing and try exploring the parklands from home.

Services and operations will be suspended at:

  • Muir Woods National Monument
  • Marin Headlands Visitor Center
  • Nike Missile site; Point Bonita Lighthouse
  • Stinson Beach parking
  • Kirby Cove and Bicentennial campgrounds
  • Alcatraz Island
  • Presidio Visitor Center
  • Fort Point National Historic Site
  • Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center
  • Lands End Lookout

Officials say that other GGNRA outdoor spaces and trails remain open to the public, for now.

San Mateo County

San Mateo County Parks closed all parks on Friday, March 27 to slow the spread of COVID-19. All reservations have been canceled through April 12 and all events are canceled.

At the Midpeninsula Open Space Regional preserves, restrooms are closed, but many trails remain open. Preserve managers recommend checking trail conditions and closures — specifically for Rancho San Antonio County Park and Preserve and the Mount Umunhum area of Sierra Azul. Windy Hill Reserve has temporarily been closed.

Santa Clara County

Santa Clara County has suspended all park programming through April 7, but the parks themselves and trails are open from dawn to dusk.

The restrooms at the Santa Clara Valley Open Space regional preserves are closed until further notice, and the preserves themselves close at 5 p.m. each day.

All youth programs are currently closed in the city of San Jose, as are community centers, with the exception of senior nutrition programs. Playgrounds in the city have also been closed.

Solano County

The Lake Solano Nature Center exhibit, rentals at the Lake Solano day use areas, the Lake Solano play structure and the Youth Group Camp Area are currently closed. And public events have also been canceled through at least April 7.

Sonoma County

On March 23, after a weekend of crowded beaches, Sonoma County’s public health officer ordered all parks closed in the county, including city, county, state and federal parklands. They're closed until further notice.

Officials with Sonoma County said that closing the parks was a difficult decision, but the amount of people that came over the weekend made social distancing nearly impossible.

"So after seeing the influx of folks at the parks over the weekend — after the shelter-in-place order had already been issued — we decided that the best thing for the community was to close all of the parks within the county," said Jennifer Larocque, spokeswoman for Sonoma County.

For now, Larocque said they're encouraging residents to go out for walks in their neighborhood while observing social distancing guidelines.

KQED's Jasmin Purifoy contributed to this story. 

This post will be updated.

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