Seattle parks are quiet during coronavirus closures, though some residents are still breaking the rules

City staff said their assessment at the end of the weekend was that “people were overwhelmingly complying with the closure of the 15 largest parks.”

Foot traffic was much lighter than usual this weekend in Seattle’s larger parks, which would typically see a crush of people in hot weather – but hundreds of sun-deprived residents still showed up even though the parks were officially closed. Despite city orders to stay away from 15 of the city’s most popular parks to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, some families, couples, cyclists and joggers apparently couldn’t resist as the cooler weather turned into a warm cloudless day on Sunday afternoon. As temperatures rose, Seattle Parks and Recreation staff rushed to block the entrances to Gas Works Park, where police had to chase people. The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Washington reached 10,411 on Sunday, including 508 deaths, according to the Washington State Department of Health, with 187 new cases and 17 additional deaths. Although early evidence shows Washington’s social distancing measures are pushing back an increase in cases and even more deaths, health officials warn infections could reappear at even higher rates if restrictions are prematurely lifted.

“If we behave like we’re back to normal, if we stop physical distancing, it could undo all of our progress,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a post on Medium ahead of the weekend. “It could make more people sick. It could get people killed. City staff said their assessment at the end of the weekend was that “people were overwhelmingly complying with the closure of the 15 largest parks.” That said, “we still had hundreds going into our larger parks, which could have been exponentially larger without the closure,” Parks spokeswoman Rachel Schulkin said via email. Data collected by park staff using a new hourly activity tracker showed that for Saturday park use was mostly low and people were largely following social distancing guidelines. The closures were only in effect last weekend, and the city will assess whether to implement them again, Schulkin said. Mayor Jenny Durkan credited Parks staff and people who respected social distancing with keeping the crowds at bay. “Seattle and our region continue to be near the peak of this virus, and the collective action of Seattle residents who have chosen to stay indoors on the happiest weekend of the year is saving lives and slowing the pace. spread, “Durkan said in a statement Sunday night. . “With the deployment of our ambassadors and the closure of our larger parks, we were able to ensure that more of our outdoor spaces could maintain increased social distance.” On Saturday at Alki Beach Park, several Parks employees kindly and sporadically encouraged people to leave the beach. But by late afternoon, there were never more than two dozen offenders on the long sandy expanse. Friday saw much larger numbers there. As of Sunday afternoon, there were about 60 people in clusters of no more than four along the half-mile stretch of sand northeast of the Alki Beach Bathhouse. A few signs stuck in the sand urging people not to congregate, but there was no clear sign that the park was closed. A few police officers stood by the bike path in case they were needed, but no one appeared to be enforcing city order by ordering people to leave the park. Taylor Carlson and Helen Mountjoy-Venning had not planned to visit Alki when they left for a bike ride on Sunday. The two colleagues knew the park was closed for the weekend. But as they drove along the path along the sand, they still decided to go to the beach. “We are further away from the people in the park…” said Mountjoy-Venning, as Carlson intervened, “that we are cycling. ” It was true. Cyclists, skaters, skateboarders and pedestrians flocked to the narrow path along the beach on Sunday, far outnumbering the few dozen people who ventured out to the park’s sandy beaches to picnic, take photos and look for photos. rocks and seashells. Some people interviewed in closed parks said they knew the parks were closed and had broken the rules anyway. Others said they were unaware of the closures. On Sunday morning, at the Cal Anderson Park sports ground, Brett North and Bill Stevens, both 34, were running sprints to lose weight for a festival season they hoped didn’t cancel. Neither of them knew the park was closed until they spoke to a reporter, they said. “If people go into quarantine, we have nothing to worry about,” Stevens said. After Stevens and North finished talking to a reporter, they continued to sprint the field. Shortly after, the park’s janitor, Chuck Scott, 52, pulled them over and told them the park was not open. In the same park, Lauren, who declined to give her last name for fear of being exposed as a scofflaw, allowed her sheep, Elway, to roll around in the grass. She knew the park was closed, but came anyway. “I guess it’s a little frustrating,” she said of the park’s closure. “We come here three times a day. Within minutes, Scott had approached Lauren, Elway and another woman and her dog, and informed them that the park was closed. Scott told the Seattle Times he wasn’t too concerned about the people he saw in the park. “Almost everyone knows the rules,” he said. But as temperatures rose until Sunday, there were signs that more people were showing up in the parks to soak up the sun. As temperatures rose above 55 degrees, a constant stream of joggers, cyclists and inline skates could be seen circling Green Lake on the park’s waterfront trail. The tennis and basketball courts were empty, but several picnic blankets still dotted the nearby daisy-filled hills. There was little indication that the park was closed. Hannah McCausland, 23, and Bubba Schwanner, 31, said they didn’t know Green Lake Park was banned. The couple were having a picnic with wine, cheese, strawberries and backgammon to celebrate their six-month anniversary. Green Lake was not their first choice, however. The couple first tried Gas Works Park before being kicked out. “We need[ed] to get out, ”McCausland said. McCausland had been struggling with mental health in recent weeks, she said, and being locked up wasn’t helping. “I think not knowing when it’s going to end – that’s what drives my anxiety,” McCausland said. At Discovery Park on Sunday, gated entrances that had been opened the day before were tied with chains and zip ties. A parking lot next to Emerson Street West was blocked with warning tape and the pedestrian entrance was chained with a paper sign that said ‘park closed until Monday’, accompanied by a smiley face . Some still managed to enter the largest park in the city. At around 4 p.m., a group of hikers and cyclists who said they entered near the beach were struggling to get out. A group at Gas Works Park on Sunday, however, ignored instructions from Parks employees to leave until Seattle police were called, the parks department said. Even after police dispersed the group, Parks employees rushed to intercept crowds of other people on foot, by bike and in Solowheel as they attempted to get inside Gas Works later in the afternoon. Several people and their dogs managed to squeeze through the park’s first tusks before being asked to exit once inside. Others made alternative plans: in front of the main Gas Works parking lot, Connor McDermott, 27, and Garbo Grossman, 31, inflated a raft. Their plan was to avoid the park, while still enjoying some socially remote time on Lake Union. “It makes sense,” McDermott said of the city’s decision to close major parks. “It’s a beautiful day. Otherwise there would be swarms of people. Seattle Times editors Daniel Beekman, Paige Cornwell, and Daniel Gilbert contributed to this report.

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