East Bay parks district says trails are open, but hikers say otherwise

Photo: John Smith/Twitter

By MJ Carter - Published on March 18, 2020.

As Oakland residents stay inside under a Bay Area-wide shelter-in-place order, many are turning to one key reprieve: the ability to walk and hike outdoors. Officials have said the practice is fine for healthy individuals as long as they maintain social distancing, remaining six feet or more from people outside their immediate households at all times.

While the East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD) has closed public facilities like restrooms and water fountains, it's said that regional trails will remain open.

But many residents say the district is going against its own plans, as they've arrived at trailheads to find them closed. Others have obeyed social distancing rules by driving to the trails, only to get slapped with parking tickets. On Nextdoor, some neighbors have reported being ticketed after parking for hikes in Tilden Park. 

Asked about the discrepancy between its stated plans for the shelter-in-place and the reality on the ground, an EBRPD representative only directed a reporter to the original press release announcing the trails would be open.

Meanwhile, City of Oakland parks are still in service, and restrooms will also remain open with daily cleaning, says Nicholas Williams, the city's director of parks, recreation and youth development. 

"Please practice all social distancing, as advised by the City of Oakland and the Governor," Williams says. 

The COVID-19 crisis has forced hiking groups to adapt. Nicholas Collins, founder of Oakland-based hiking organization 510 Hikers, says that while group hikes are cancelled, his organization is encouraging families to hike together while practicing social distancing. 

Once the shelter-in-place is over, 510 Hikers hopes to host multiple small-group hikes led by coaches and administrators, to abide by CDC restrictions on larger gatherings. 

"I'm making it a point to make sure that I am out and active," says Collins, who is also a health and fitness consultant for the City of Oakland. "Because we need it more than ever."

Update, 4:17 p.m.: Dave Mason, the EBRPD's public information officer, issued the following statement:

Some parks were closed temporarily, due to the shelter in place order and limited staffing. All parks are open at this time, and the health and safety of the public, employees and visitors is a top priority. The department is happy and thrilled to keep parks and trails open.
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