We can all agree that closing public green spaces has been difficult.  Throughout this crisis, our community has had access to a personal escape, whether it be the park two blocks from your house, some alone time on a surfboard, or a lengthy hike in a state park.  So, from April 8th to the 15th, when those spaces were closed at the order of Dr. Gail Newell, our community felt a little more claustrophobic than before.  Understandably, these spaces had to close to keep our community safe, as it was becoming impossible to social distance in these suddenly crowded spaces.  Santa Cruz County Sheriff, Jim Hart expanded on the current county-wide situation and summarized the thoughts of many, “While the vast majority of Santa Cruz County residents are staying home and following the direction of the County Health Officer, unfortunately some visitors and community members are treating this extraordinary crisis as a holiday.”

Many other organizations in the County have also struggled to promote social distancing with an influx of population. The Santa Cruz County Public Works Department has unrolled a new parking program, “the Live Oak Parking Program (LOPP) on Friday, April 17, 2020, which will remain in place through the duration of the orders. Any vehicle not displaying a valid residential or temporary LOPP permit will be cited, with enforcement in place seven days a week.”  the California Department of Parks and Recreation have closed all parking for visitors and begun livestream programs for children to visit virtually instead. If you’re missing our State Parks, check out your favorite park’s (like Wilder, Castle Rock, Henry Cowell, or Natural Bridges’) individual Facebook page for more information. The Santa Cruz METRO is also solving problems around social distancing, allowing only 5-8 essential workers.  Even then, many have criticized “’joy riders’ taking up the limited space that should be reserved for those needing legitimate essential travel.” The METRO has been enforcing further restrictions to prevent ‘joy riders’. While many of these new restrictions have dissuaded travelers from out of county, they

might be a little extreme for Scotts Valley. 

The Mayor of Scotts Valley, Randy Johnson, “was not in favor of the closures at Skypark, Siltanen Park, and the Glenwood trails… but, the City of Scotts Valley must follow the rules set by the County.” Johnson reported some difficulties with the current “fluidity” of policies, “waiting for edicts to come down from the state and county, which are much more concerned with overcrowded beaches than our own less populated spaces.” We won’t experience an influx of travelers escaping cabin fever, unlike many other parts of the County.  Large crowds at the beach don’t translate into large crowds in Scotts Valley.”

For now, our green spaces are back to being open, bathrooms included!  The only caveat, aside from following socially distancing and other county health protocols, is the Tim Brauch Memorial Skate Park, which has proven too difficult to use while social distancing.  The only citation throughout the week of closures was issued by at the skate park, according to officers Johnson interviewed.  A few individuals had jumped the fence after the park was locked, and they were quickly cited for not respecting the closure. Trails on the Westside of Glenwood Preserve are also closed, but not due to COVID.  Johnson explained, “The trails were undergoing construction to widen and further develop them and were supposed to open by April 4th, but the shelter in place order shutdown the work before they could be finished.  They’re still not safe and therefore closed.”

On the bright side, Johnson asserts we shouldn’t be concerned about future closures in Scotts Valley.  He believes that, “Any concerns [about the spread of COVID in parks] are offset by the positive contributions parks make to our City…  It’s really important to open the green spaces, because exercise is good for mind, body, and spirit.  It’s what our community needs right now.”   Johnson personally bikes in Scotts Valley about 2-3 times a week and is proud to see the community getting much-need fresh air.  His final advice for park frolickers, “Just be careful, when you do use [our parks], play catch, or throw the football, do it only with family members. only.  If you’re going to enjoy the parks do it with the people you live with!”

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