— Jessica L (@jayloo92) March 23, 2020
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has joined leaders in other cities grappling with COVID-19 in ordering a weekend closure of the city’s largest public green spaces including Capitol Hill’s Cal Anderson and Volunteer Parks:
Seattle is joining major cities like Austin and Los Angeles across the country in closing major parks for the weekend. The change is effective Friday, April 10th at 11pm and will parks reopen on Monday, April 12 at 4:30 am. Data shows that social distancing measures are effectively reducing the transmission rate, but any easing of those measures could lead to a resurgence in transmission. Moreover, all city departments are having to adjust to the impacts that COVID-19 has had on employees, their families and the city workforce.
The mayor’s office release says the closure ends Monday, April 12th. We’re assuming they meant the 13th.
“These are the beautiful weather days we crave all winter, but we are living in unprecedented times and the Governor’s order isn’t stay out – it’s stay home,” Durkan said in her announcement. “Seattle’s frontline medical workers, vulnerable residents, and displaced workers need you to stay home.”
UPDATE: A representative for the mayor’s office said an important factor in the closure is a lack of city employees to enforce distancing restrictions in the parks:
The City has sent any staff over 60 or with underlying medical conditions home, and this has reduced our workforce, resulting in less presence in our parks for enforcement. This has influenced the options available to the City as we work to prevent people from congregating in parks.
Cities including Austin and Los Angeles have also announced similar closures, the mayor’s office says.
“If you need to take a walk in your neighborhood, be smart and don’t help create a crowded place,” Durkan said.
The Easter weekend closures come as Seattle enjoys a bout of temperatures in the 60s with a forecast for warmer weather on the way. It also comes amid continued positive signs that the outbreak is slowing in King County — though experts and officials warn that social distancing measures must continue. Through Wednesday night, there have now been 258 deaths reported in the county — 5 in the ZIP codes covering Capitol Hill.
With its densely packed population and many residents living in apartments without yards, the Hill’s parks have been a refuge for many seeking a place to stretch their legs and get outside. But crowds and gatherings for pick-up games have raised complaints and ongoing calls to police. Following a few attempts in March to clear Cal Anderson, SPD has told callers it would not be responding to social distancing complaints.
In addition to those seeking recreation, Cal Anderson and the city’s parks are also places for homeless people and those with few options for finding a space to hangout under COVID-19 restrictions to spend some time. The city has also added a “comfort station” near the park for those experiencing homelessness.
In Volunteer Park, meanwhile, the area has become even more enticing for walkers and riders with the closure of parking and shutdown of the road through the park to traffic.
Nearby areas like Miller playfield, Seven Hills Park, Tashkent, and Broadway Hill Park may feel the squeeze.
Here are the full details on the closure and the list of areas involved:
Seattle Parks and Recreation’s eight destination parks Green Lake, Lincoln, Golden Gardens, Seward Park, Magnuson Park, Gas Works, Alki Beach, and Discovery, as well as Cal Anderson, Carkeek, Woodland Park, Volunteer Park, Kubota Garden, West Seattle Stadium, and the Washington Park Arboretum will close on Friday, April 10th at 11pm and will reopen Monday, April 12 at 4:30 am.. Stan Sayres, Magnuson, Don Armeni, and Atlantic St boat launches are also closed. Trails at Lake Washington Boulevard will remain open, but group gatherings will be prohibited. Rattlesnake Lake Recreation Area and Rattlesnake Ledge Trail will remain closed. Next week, the City will is evaluating and implementing a park by park plan to ensure residents can safely utilize larger regional parks when they reopen.
The city is also reminding people of best practices when it comes to responsibly using the spaces:
- Practice social distancing: respect the minimum 6 feet of separation recommended by the CDC. While on trails, warn other users of their presence and as they pass, and step aside to let others pass.
- Do not access off limits equipment or areas: last month, Seattle and King County closed all play areas and other high touch areas, such as picnic shelters, tables, and outdoor exercise equipment.
- Do not congregate in parks: this means no pick-up games, no picnics, BBQs, parties, or bonfires.
- Maintain six feet of separation for activities: hiking, biking, walking are all great ways to enjoy parks right now, just remember to give a wide berth to your fellow residents.
- Stay home if they are feeling sick.
- Practice good hygiene: follow CDC’s guidance on personal hygiene prior to and during use of parks or trails.
This weekend’s closures will end with the parks reopening for use Monday. What happens after that could be up to the COVID-19 numbers — and how people respond to the call to do more to help slow the outbreak’s spread.
- 5/4/20: COVID-19 updates: Phase 1 begins, what’s in Phase 2 (and 3 and 4), King County removes antibody testing case counts, COVID-19 yard art
- 5/1/20: Washington extends COVID-19 restrictions through May, readies ‘four phase’ plan for reopening with limits on groups, restaurant capacity, and travel
- 4/30/20: Washington investigating state totals after COVID-19 ‘excess deaths’ report
- 4/30/20: Facing opposition from mayor and chamber advocates, Seattle tax on big businesses for COVID-19 relief and housing moves toward May vote
- Plus: Capitol Hill Restaurants, Bars, and Cafes offering takeout during COVID-19 ‘stay home’ restrictions
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