With the public largely working from home and most entertainment facilities just now beginning to open to the public, more people have been visiting county parks than seen in years past, leaving park staff to request visitors clean up after themselves.
“We’re seeing unprecedented numbers [of visitors] in our parks but we’re also seeing an unprecedented amount of garbage and waste,” said Nicholas Calderon, the San Mateo County Parks director.
Calderon said parks countywide have seen substantially more visitors than this time last year and rangers have been working to manage the high volume of waste which occasionally overflows from bins. Despite the extra efforts by park employees, Calderon said the public could help by ensuring to remove any garbage brought into the parks.
“While we’re doing everything we can to handle the garbage and our rangers are doing a great job at keeping areas clean, if you pack in and pack out it’s a huge help. It’s not just what’s best for the park, it’s what’s best for the environment and for our visitors,” he said.
Calderon noted the importance of the public to clean up after themselves especially once parks are opened for picnics and small gatherings. Residents hoping to picnic will be allowed to do so next week at small drop-in sites spread out across most open parks including at Quarry Park, Coyote Point and Junipero Serra Park.
Visitors are expected to follow state guidelines on group sizes, remaining in social bubbles, or a group of 12 or fewer people from different households who have agreed to socialize with only members of their group. The groups are recommended to last three weeks and one at a time.
Those who dine in the parks are requested to also disinfect the area once finished with their visit to limit the possibility of transmitting COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory disease responsible for the county’s mid-March shelter-in-place order. Restrooms will be “strategically placed” near picnic areas to allow for proper hygiene practices such as hand washing and sanitizing.
“We’re excited to continue to expand what we’re offering to the public. We’re pleased we can offer our services in what we believe in the safest way possible,” said Calderon.
All six county parks currently closed to the public will remain so until the state provides guidelines on opening playgrounds. The San Mateo County Historical Association, responsible for managing the Woodside Store and the Sanchez Adobe, is working on plans to reopen both locations. The tidepools at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve will remain closed until seal pupping season is completed near the end of June, providing protection for the estimated 50 new baby seals.
Some park trails will continue to have enforced one-way traveling down narrow paths to honor social distancing such as those in Edgewood, Pescadero Creek and Sam McDonald parks. Visitors will also be required to abide by state and county social distancing regulations as much as possible, remaining 6 feet away from other visitors not from the same social bubbles.
Visitors with strollers are encouraged to walk trails in single file to allow for others to pass by on bidirectional trails. Those running or rapidly walking are also asked to make space for slower walkers.
Larger fields equipped to hold 100 to 200 visitors will remain closed for the time being to discourage large gatherings. Calderon noted the department is looking to guidance from the state following the new health order which takes a behavioral approach to public safety.
“We really feel people have been great at bringing their masks and a lot of parks have wide trails so people can maintain social distance while passing each other. We haven’t had to do a lot of enforcement but when we do approach people, they’re very receptive. They know rangers are just doing their jobs,” said Calderon.