For Immediate Release

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions Related to the Sonoma County’s Park Closures

Santa Rosa, CA  –  March 24, 2020  –  

What is the parks closure order?

Sonoma County's public health officer has issued an order closing all parks within Sonoma County beginning March 24, 2020 and remaining in effect until further notice. The closure applies to all parks and open spaces in the county. It comes after parks, trails and beaches countywide were crowded with visitors during the first weekend of shelter-in-place orders issued by the county and state.

Can I walk to the parks?

At this time, the parks are closed to all visitors – whether you drive or walk or bike to the parks. We need to practice social distancing for the shelter-in-place order to work. Staying close to home is the best way to protect ourselves and our community.

If you live near a park, please follow the closure order and do not walk in. We're also asking people not to drive to park neighborhoods and walk in. These next few weeks are critical if we are going to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus.

Why can’t I walk into the parks?

Due to park design, many parks can still get crowded if walk-in access is allowed. Walk-in access also presents an issue of equity for people who don’t live near parks. We know this is a disappointing development, but we ask for your cooperation. We had hoped the parks could remain a resource for basic activities, but the greater health of our community makes closing them the right action at this time.

What if I walk into the park anyway? Will I get a ticket?

We hope you’ll comply with the closure order. If rangers find you in a park, they’ll let you know the park is closed and ask you to leave. The intent is first to inform and ask for your cooperation. 

Why are the bike trails open only for pedestrians?

Under the parks closure order, Class 1 bike trails like the Joe Rodota and West County trails (paved bike paths separated from roads) are open to pedestrians only. These trails serve as essential pathways in some neighborhoods, functioning like sidewalks. They remain open to let residents move about within their neighborhoods. They’re closed to cyclists to help prevent crowding and through-traffic and to reinforce the intent of the stay-at-home order.

How can I stay active if I can’t use my parks?

The health order does allow for limited outdoor exercise if we stay 6 feet from people who are not members of our household. Health authorities encourage us to do things like walk or ride bike around our neighborhoods. Play games or exercise in our yards. Garden or do outside chores or walk the dog. We know it’s disappointing to not be able to use the parks but staying close to home right now is the best way to slow the spread of this virus.

Can I exercise on school yards and playing fields?

School yards are considered public parks when school is not in session, so this closure order applies to those spaces as well.

Why did you make the parks free, only to close them days later? 

Like everyone, we are doing our best to adapt while this emergency evolves. When the stay-at-home order was issued, we hoped the parks could remain a community resource. However, we also suspended non-essential services at that time. We waived parking fees so staff wouldn’t have to process sales and to help keep the parks accessible. 

Like park managers throughout the country, we didn’t anticipate the record number of visitors we’d receive. We believe parks crowding would continue to be an issue at this time even if we reinstituted parking fees.

Unfortunately, too many people using the parks violates the intent of the stay-at-home order and makes social distancing challenging, if not impossible. It also strains our ability to keep facilities safe and clean.

I paid for an annual membership. Will you extend the expiration date of my membership?

We understand your concern about your membership. We will address this in the future. Right now, we’re focusing our limited resources on getting information out about the parks closure and ensuring the safety of staff who are enforcing the closure.