AUSTIN, Texas — Before you head out to the great outdoors this Memorial Day weekend, there are a few things you need to know in regard to closures and openings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To help limit the spread of the coronavirus, most area parks have made changes to limit capacity. While some parks still remain closed completely, others have switched to reservation systems.
The City of Austin now requires reservations for Emma Long, Walter E. Long and Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Parks. The goal is to keep these parks safe for people who want to visit. It costs $5 per car, with up to eight people in a car, for Emma Long and Walter E. Long, but Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan park is free.
You can reserve a spot a month in advance and they book up quickly. Go here to reserve.
The Austin Parks and Recreation Department said the same social distancing rules apply at parks. You do not have to wear a mask if you are not within six feet of other people. So be respectful and make sure you leave room for other families to swim and enjoy the outdoors.
It's worth noting that many Travis County Parks, such as Hippie Hollow Park, Mansfield Dam Park and Bob Wentz Park remain closed.
For those parks that are open, Travis County is only allowing day-use access with social distancing and face coverings strongly encouraged. Starting on Friday, additional parks and amenities will open on a limited basis, including most of the park system's boat ramps.
Additionally, restroom facilities will be available in a limited capacity and groups of larger than five people who do not reside in the same household are not allowed. Fees are cash only.
The following Travis County parks will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.:
- Reimers Ranch Park
- Pace Bend Park (Collier boat ramp only)
- Loop 360 Park (boat ramp open)
- Mansfield Dam Park (boat ramp only, no day-use activities)
- Arkansas Bend Park (boat ramp open)
- Cypress Creek Park (boat ramp open)
- Mary Quinlan Park (boat ramp open)
- Webberville Park (boat ramp open)
- Little Webberville Park (boat ramp open)
- Richard Moya Park (trails only)
- Northeast Metro Park (trails only)
- Southeast Metro Park (trails, fishing)
- East Metro Park (trails, fishing)
- Allen Park (trails only)
- Windmill Run Park (trails only)
On Friday, however, Pace Bend was closed due to high numbers of park visitors.
The park closed again on Saturday, just two hours after opening. Also on Saturday, Milton Reimers Ranch, Arkansas Bend and Mansfield Dam parks closed due to a large number of visitors.
These amenities remain closed or not operational:
- Athletic fields, swimming pools, skate parks, BMX tracks
- Commercial use of boat ramps
- Park playscapes
- Pavilions/group shelters
- Water fountains
If you're looking to head to the river, both San Marcos and New Braunfels have announced riverfront park openings. The City of San Marcos said its riverfront parks will reopen starting on Friday. And the City of New Braunfels opened its river parks earlier this month with limited capacity.
If you're hoping to visit a Texas State Park, such as McKinney Falls, you might be out of luck. Though the State recently expanded to allow for overnight camping at these parks, both day use and overnight camping permits can only be made through online reservations, which are booking up fast.
If you are looking for some lesser-used trails and outdoor spaces consider these:
- Southern Walnut Creek Trail offers a paved, multi-use alternative for long-distance biking and walking, especially on weekdays. You can find easy access all along the trail, from Govalle Neighborhood Park to Louis Rene Barrera Indiangrass Wildlife Sanctuary.
- Bauerle Ranch has several sunny hike-and-bike trailheads in different neighborhoods leading to a collection of loop trails, which are great for birding. Look for waterfowl including the crested caracara and osprey around the park's water features. Dogs must be on a leash at all times.
- Copperfield Trails offers short hiking and nature trails that can be accessed from 1425 E. Yager Lane. There are some creek and road crossings. Dogs must be on a leash at all times.
- Blunn Creek Nature Preserve is a great place to hike with lots of shade and some easy creek crossings. Climb to the top (which is also the site of an ancient volcano) and enjoy a great view of St. Edwards University.
Nature preserves are open to foot traffic only, no bikes or dogs are allowed. Street parking is on St. Edwards Drive and Long Bow Lane. Other entrances are gated.
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