Two Dallas parks and trails are getting deluged with visitors, despite shelter-at-home ordinances and rules about social distancing rules, and the city's Park and Recreation Department is dropping the hammer.
The two parks in question are Katy Trail and White Rock Lake, both of which have seen a marked increase in the number of visitors, who have not, according to park officials, adhered to social distancing rules.
To limit public access, the department installed police barricades at many entrances and limited incoming traffic.
Unfortunately, all that did was induce visitors to park in areas other than official designated lots.
So now the department is threatening to shut it all down. A release says that "overcrowding at city parks and trails could force the department to close all trails and 397 parks. Park officials said they are prepared to take this drastic step immediately if the public will not voluntarily comply with social distancing requirements."
Dallas County officials are removing basketball hoops. Park Rangers are monitoring parks and trail usage to ensure compliance, and the city's Code Enforcement and Parking Enforcement Departments and the Dallas Marshal's Office are assisting with enforcement.
"When you're under quarantine, you cannot go to the grocery store, out for a walk or anywhere. If you want outdoor activities, it'll be in your backyard," said Judge Clay Jenkins.
Twitter has some other suggestions. In Big D suggests a list of 10 parks within close range of White Rock Lake that list trails as an amenity including:
- Willis C Winters Park (formerly Randall Park)
- Lakeland Hills Park
- Tietze Park
- Dixon Branch Greenbelt
- Ridgewood Park
- Lakewood Park
- Harry Stone Rec Center
- Fair Oaks Park
- Cotillion Park
- Casa View Park
Wylie H Dallas suggests transforming streets which are currently less crowded into alternative spaces for biking and jogging.
"Public health emergency demands creative thinking, not threats, from @DallasParkRec," he says. "Residents need walking/biking areas to maintain mental/physical health and immune systems. If trails are overloaded, create more temporary trails by blocking off lanes on underutilized streets."
There's a precedent in cities such as New York and Philadelphia, which are opening streets to pedestrians and bicyclists as an alternative to crowded parks.
The interim Parks and Recreation director says that shutting down all the parks is the "last step."
"We encourage you to stay at home even though we recognize the mental and physical benefits of outdoor exercise and fresh air," says interim director John Jenkins. "While at the parks, we want visitors to practice social distancing of at least six feet. We want residents to walk or cycle to their neighborhood park and protect themselves by following social distancing. Closing parks and trails is the last step we will take for everyone's safety."