On Sunday, California State Parks closed down the parking areas and other vehicle areas at all 280 park locations.
The State Parks agency made the decision after having parks being flooded with people escaping stay-at-home orders for the last few weeks. The massive number of new visitors had made it largely impossible for everyone to follow appropriate social distancing rules to stop the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus. In the interest of public safety, CSP made the parking area closure decision.
“Continued visitation surges at state parks yesterday have resulted in the closing of vehicle access at ALL 280 state parks,” tweeted California State Parks. Please protect yourself, your families & communities from COVID-19 by practicing social distancing. Help flatten the curve.”
Continued visitation surges @ state parks yesterday have resulted in the closing of vehicle access @ ALL 280 state parks. Please protect yourself, your families & communities from #COVID19 by practicing #SocialDistancing. Help #FlattenTheCurve. https://t.co/RGTMp0Sqbb pic.twitter.com/9mE2SPIsX9
— CA State Parks (@CAStateParks) March 29, 2020
State Park regulars also noted another possible reason for Sunday’s closures.
“There has been so many people,” noted frequent state park visitor Matty Reglan. “I go out a few times a week. Since all the coronavirus things, there have been so many people coming, especially families. And a lot of them don’t know the first thing about longer hikes.”
“I won’t say where out of respect for the park itself, but last week brought out a lot of people who could have been hurt because of that inexperience. There were a few people, both old and young, who asked me where all the bathrooms were on the trails. Or where the water fountains were. I was also asked by one person if there was anyplace where they could fill up a water bottle that ‘wasn’t tap water.’ A lot of families with small children had to carry them out because they didn’t know how long it would be. One group of people even began attempting to make a fire to cook marshmallows or something before a ranger stopped them.”
“I mean, I’m glad more people are enjoying these areas, but a lot of the people getting out of the coronaviruses way don’t know much about hiking outside in state parks.”
When asked about safe distancing measures, Reglan replied “If just two people had it when hiking there either last week or this week we might have just caused a mini-outbreak. Only some people cared about the six feet thing.”
“I talked to some hiking pals around LA this week too. Just the same.”
“The parking ban makes total sense. I hate to not come out and visit in the coming weeks, but it makes sense for everyone’s sake. I saw what a mess it was in one park alone. I can only imagine the rest.”
The parking decision follows an earlier decision made the previous week to close all State Park museums, campgrounds, and visitor centers, as well as a stoppage of all State Park events and activities.
State Parks will remain open for walk-in visitors, but if influxes remain high, complete park closures may occur.