During the efforts to combat and minimize the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the East Bay Regional Park District offers a couple of reminders for park visitors.
One is the district’s request that park visitors keep their dogs on leash at all times. Normally in the regional parks, dogs are allowed off-leash in the backcountry, as long as they are under their owner’s control and do not harass other park visitors, cattle or wildlife.
However, for the duration, dogs should be on a leash (six-foot max) to help prevent crowding and interaction between unrelated park visitors. Unleashed dogs tend to group together, which leads to less social distancing between their owners.
And dogs are not allowed at all in some park areas. Two examples are the Tilden Nature Area (which isn’t the entire park) near Berkeley, and Round Valley Regional Preserve south of Brentwood. Round Valley is habitat for the endangered San Joaquin kit fox. Elsewhere, watch for signs indicating where dogs are prohibited.
The other reminder concerns cloth face coverings or masks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores.
The center also advises use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and to prevent people who may have it and do not know it from transmitting it to others.
Moreover, five Bay Area counties, including Alameda and Contra Costa, now require residents to wear face masks whenever they leave home to visit or work at an essential business, especially when taking transit or when in grocery stores. BART now requires riders to wear masks. When outside, everyone is supposed to carry masks or face coverings to use whenever they come near six feet of others outside their own households.
In the interest of public safety, the district also recommends that people visiting regional parks have masks available to wear, especially when social distancing is difficult. The masks don’t have to be elaborate. According to the CDC, cloth face coverings should fit snugly but comfortably, be secured with ties or ear loops, include multiple layers of fabric, allow for breathing, and be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or shrinkage. Large folded bandannas will do the job.
Other well-publicized safety rules also still apply. In compliance with the statewide stay-at-home order, the district urges people to visit only regional parks that are close to their residence. Keep a social distance of six feet, and walk, bike or ride only with immediate household members. No gatherings or meet-up groups.
One welcome amenity will soon be available again. The park district board decided at its meeting on April 21 to reopen restrooms along trails throughout the district by May 4. Between now and then, park staffs will be trained on proper protocols for cleaning restrooms without exposure to the virus.
Drinking fountains remain closed to prevent virus spread. So bring your own water and pack out your trash.
Some regional parks remain completely closed, others have restricted parking. For an up-to-date list of the situation, visit the district website, www.ebparks.org.
The county health departments are in agreement that public parklands are a vital component of general well-being, and have asked that the district keep parks as open as possible.
Of course the virus-related measures are inconvenient to say the least. But by going along with the rules, the public can help assure that most parks will stay open. And the more we all cooperate, the sooner we’ll be able get back to a pre-virus lifestyle.