Seattle is closing more than a dozen of the city’s largest and most popular parks for the weekend because officials are worried about people crowding into the parks to enjoy the pleasant spring weather and spreading the novel coronavirus to each other, Mayor Jenny Durkan said Thursday.
The city will close 15 parks Friday at 11 p.m. and keep them closed until early Monday morning, Parks Superintendent Jesús Aguirre said in an online news conference with Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best.
The weekend closures will apply to these parks, including the beaches at those along the water: Alki, Arboretum, Cal Anderson, Carkeek, Discovery, Gas Works, Green Lake, Golden Gardens, Kubota Garden, Lincoln, Magnuson, Seward, Volunteer, West Seattle Stadium and Woodland.
The parks with gates will be locked, and Seattle Parks and Recreation employees will be present. They’ll remind people who enter the parks to leave and will be able to call the police if people don’t move along, Aguirre said.
The Seattle Police Department will have officers prepared to respond, Best said. Officers will start by asking people to voluntarily comply with the closures, she said.
“That being said, we do have the potential to write a citation,” Best added. “Those details are being worked out with the City Attorney’s office … That is the game plan so far.”
The parks will reopen at 4:30 a.m. Monday. When they reopen, officials intend to implement a park-by-park plan to ensure people can enjoy them safely, Aguirre said. If additional closures are necessary, police will help enforce them, Best said.
The officials didn’t immediately address how people experiencing homelessness might be affected by the closures, nor did they speak about how people without yards might be particularly affected.
The city shut down parking lots at eight major parks about two weeks ago and has banned the use of play areas. Under Gov. Jay Inslee’s statewide stay-at-home order, those at parks are supposed to stay six feet away from each other.
But this is the first time Seattle has closed parks because of the coronavirus pandemic. Durkan said the decision was difficult because “getting outside is part of who we are.”
“This beautiful weather makes it really hard in Seattle,” the mayor said. “These are the days we all crave … No one wants to close our parks. We love our parks.”
The city’s more than 400 neighborhood parks will remain open, with social distancing regulations in effect, Durkan said.
But officials are “very concerned, given the weather,” about the potential for crowds in Seattle’s largest parks, Aguirre said. Temperatures are expected to be in the upper 50s to low 60s Saturday and Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
“Over the past week, we’ve seen high numbers of folks in some of our most popular parks and really believe this has created a serious health and safety threat in our community,” he said. “These are the parks we see significant congregation.”
“We find that there are still folks who aren’t complying” with social distancing guidelines at parks, Aguirre said.
Some other cities across the country also have closed parks, Aguirre said.
The mayor urged people to police themselves, saying she hoped enforcement by the city wouldn’t be necessary.
“We know we can’t police our way out of a pandemic,” Best added.