Parks use soaring during pandemic
Popularity forces closure of some Bay Area spots to avoid large groups
Park visits have surged in the Bay Area during the coronavirus pandemic as residents look for easy escapes from sheltering in place at home. That has prompted park officials to shut down select areas where people might cluster, but also has helped drive large numbers to popular areas that remain open.
The best example of high use is at the Crystal Springs Regional Trail on the Peninsula, where automated counters registered 122,089 visitors in May and June, according to Carla Schoof, communications specialist at the San Mateo County Parks Department. Crystal Springs, one of the most popular recreation destinations in the Bay Area, had 66,297 visitors during the same period last year.
“We’re very busy,” Schoof said.
“At Crystal Springs, we’re up almost double. The same is true at a lot of our parks. Clearly, parks are the place to be.”
The East Bay is experiencing a similar crush of visitors. “Sometimes we seem to be the only game in town,” said Bob Doyle, general manager of the East Bay Regional Park District.
Of the 350plus recreation destinations in the Bay Area, detailed in The Chronicle’s Outdoor Guide, more than 300 are open. All or parts of the remaining 50 or so could stay closed through summer, park managers said.
Here is an overview of which popular outdoor areas are open and closed around the Bay Area, with tips on how to pull off a successful visit: Marin County: At Point Reyes National Seashore, the road to the renovated lighthouse and adjacent Chimney Rock Headlands is blocked at the turnoff for Drakes Beach. North of Bolinas, where every resident has been tested for the coronavirus, a roadblock on Mesa Road cuts off access to the Palomarin Trailhead and the Coastal Trail for the hike to Bass Lake, Wildcat Camp and Alamere Falls.
The annual California Coastal Cleanup Day at Point Reyes, scheduled for September, has been canceled, said Christine Beekman, acting chief of interpretation and resource education at Point Reyes National Seashore.
At the Marin Headlands, access to Point Bonita Lighthouse remains closed, according to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Major destinations that have reopened without significant issues reported include the trail camps at Point Reyes National Seashore, where reservations are required at www.recreation.gov, and access to Muir Woods National Monument, where advance reservations for parking are required through www.gomuirwoods.com. Peninsula: “Bicycle Sundays” at Cañada Road between Interstate 280 and Woodside, one of the most popular weekly cycling events in California, remains shut down with no reopening date, Schoof said.
On the coast, the most wellknown destination that remains gated is Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach, where the San Mateo County Parks Department has closed parking, the beach and tide pools.
“With a few exceptions, our parks are open,” Schoof said. “We say, ‘Bring a mask, put it on when you can’t social distance.’ We don’t want people to form groups. If a park gets crowded, and you don’t feel comfortable, go to another place. There are plenty of locations for people to pick from, and a lot of people are doing that, trying to discover what is out there.”
East Bay: The primary entrance to Del Valle Regional Park to reach the lake, marina, campgrounds, picnic areas and trailhead for the 28mile Ohlone Wilderness Trail remains closed, likely into September, according to Dave Mason, public information supervisor for the East Bay Regional Parks District. Other marquee destinations closed in the East Bay include the Marciel Gate and the campground at Anthony Chabot Regional Park, and the road to Lake Anza and its picnic sites at Tilden Regional Park.
Parks with limited parking and restricted to walkin access include Crown Beach in Alameda, Lake Temescal in Oakland, Diablo Foothills near Walnut Creek, Shadow Cliffs Lake in Pleasanton and Contra Loma Reservoir in Antioch.
Visitor traffic has jumped on good weather weekends at the most wellknown regional parks, including at Tilden, Lake Chabot, Point Pinole and Mission Peak, Doyle said.
To promote mask compliance and stop clustering, a problem early in the pandemic in April, Doyle said nearly 200 park rangers and fire officials have monitored visitors at the district’s 73 parks. Over time, he said, visitors are complying “better than ever, masks and distancing.”
Fishing: Fishing for salmon on sportfishing vessels has been a hit out of San Francisco, Sausalito, Emeryville, Berkeley and Half Moon Bay, where captains have reduced loads to create more space aboard boats and marked off 6foot distances between rod holders for trolling. To make it work, most vessels have raised the price to $200, but most anglers seem happy to pay more to get more elbowroom, especially with good fishing this summer.
On Monday, boats ventured to the Marin coast, where many captains reported most people hit their twofish limits; a typical score was on the New Rayann out of Sausalito, with 26 salmon of up to 22 pounds for 13 anglers aboard.
Visits to Crystal Springs Trail in San Mateo County during May and June are double what they were last year.
Cars jam the parking lot and line the road at an entrance to Tilden Regional Park in the East Bay Regional Parks District.
Bay Area residents looking for an escape while sheltering in place are flocking to outdoor spots like Crystal Springs Regional Trail.
People walk through Cathedral Grove at Muir Woods National Monument last year. Reservations are required for visiting the Marin County park.