Parks use soar­ing dur­ing pan­demic

Pop­u­lar­ity forces clo­sure of some Bay Area spots to avoid large groups

San Francisco Chronicle - - BAY AREA - By Tom Stien­stra

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.recrea tion.gov, and ac­cess to Muir Woods Na­tional Mon­u­ment, where ad­vance reser­va­tions for park­ing are re­quired through www.go­muir woods.com.

Penin­sula:

“Bi­cy­cle Sun­days” at Cañada Road be­tween I­280 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.

Tom Stien­stra / The Chron­i­cle

Vis­its to Crys­tal Springs Trail in San Ma­teo County dur­ing May and June are dou­ble what they were last year.

Bob Doyle / Spe­cial to The Chron­i­cle

Cars jam the park­ing lot and line the road at an en­trance to Tilden Re­gional Park in the East Bay Re­gional Parks Dis­trict.

Pho­tos by Gabrielle Lurie / The Chron­i­cle

Bay Area res­i­dents look­ing for an es­cape while shel­ter­ing in place are flock­ing to outdoor spots like Crys­tal Springs Re­gional Trail, pic­tured in 2016.

Peo­ple walk through Cathe­dral Grove at Muir Woods Na­tional Mon­u­ment last year. Reser­va­tions are re­quired for vis­it­ing the Marin County park.

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