AUSTIN, Texas — Although the City of Austin's closure of all city parks and trails over the Easter weekend ended Monday at sunrise, the Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) is implementing further restrictions to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
PARD will be decreasing parking access to all downtown, district and neighborhood parks to increase physical distancing by park and trail users. The department will also be converting the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake to one way.
The department will be posting signs to indicate the direction people should travel along the trail. South of Lady Bird Lake, people should travel from east to west. North of Lady Bird Lake, people should travel from west to east.
These changes began rolling out on Monday, with a full transition to be completed by Friday.
The City said this decision was made after consulting with the Public Health Authority and the City of Austin Equity Office. Leaders said they recognized the positive benefits of parks and trails on mental and physical health as we all practice physical distancing.
Parks within the bounds of MoPac, Barton Springs Road, Interstate 35, and 15th Street will all have reduced parking, as well as all district parks and neighborhood parks with parking lots. Residents can view the PARD parkviewer app to identify parks within these areas.
PARD said signage, gate closures, barricades and regular patrols will remind the community of parking closures, and rangers will continue to educate and push for compliance.
"We're going to try to keep the parks open ... But we really do need the community to recognize that, in keeping them open, we have to be just doubly, doubly diligent that we're not letting people congregate," Austin Mayor Steve Adler said Monday evening during a Facebook Live.
According to a City spokesperson, Austin 3-1-1 received 700 reports of people overcrowding at parks, homes and other locations during Easter weekend. Park rangers made more than 2,500 contacts with people at the parks during the closures. The City couldn't say yet whether Austin police ticketed anyone.
There are currently no plans to indefinitely close Austin parks and trails. However, beginning Tuesday, as part of Austin and Travis County's new stay-at-home orders, indoor and outdoor recreation clubs, like golf courses, are joining the list of nonessential businesses.
But a City spokesperson confirmed they can remain open as long as golfers can book tee times online and the golfers practice social distancing by staying six feet apart and wear face coverings while out on the course. A face covering is not required if the golfer is by themselves.
Mayor Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt will provide more details at a press conference scheduled for Tuesday at noon.
The following PARD facilities and grounds remain closed:
- All recreation centers
- All cultural centers
- All museums
- All senior centers
- All aquatic facilities
- Barking Springs/spillway below Barton Springs Pool
- All golf courses. Golf walking is not allowed as of April 6.
- All tennis centers
- All playgrounds
- Zilker Botanical Garden
- Zilker Caretaker House
- Old Bakery & Emporium
- All special event facilities
- Emma Long Metropolitan Park campsites
- Park amenities including, but not limited to: basketball courts, tennis courts, skate parks, playgrounds, disc golf courses, exercise equipment and pavilions.
Amid the new changes, the City said reasonable accommodations will be made to support those with mobility impairments, in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
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