Seeking to prevent crowds at popular recreation areas, Palo Alto announced Wednesday that it will close parking lots near the city’s three open space preserves: Foothills Park, the Arastradero Preserve and the Baylands.
While all three open spaces will remain open for now, visitors will only be able to access them by foot or bicycles starting Friday. The move mirrors a similar policy from Gov. Gavin Newsom, who on Sunday announced parking lot closures at dozens of state parks in five counties, including Marin and San Mateo counties.
The announcement by City Manager Ed Shikada that parking lots will be closed came a day after the city closed bathrooms and drinking fountains at preserves as part of a strategy to limit access. Shikada told the council on Monday that the city is employing a strategy of "access limitations" — rather than outright closure of open spaces — for reducing crowding on trails.
He also noted Monday that if this strategy is unsuccessful, "closure would presumably be the next step, unless we can come up with any strategies in between." The Wednesday afternoon announcement states that "the difficult decision was made to protect the community and to ensure social distancing is maintained."
"The city is urging the community to stay at home. This will save lives. If large crowds continue at our parks and Open Space Preserves, we will have no choice but to close them for the safety of the whole community," Shikada said.
While Mayor Adrian Fine reported a high number of visitors at the Baylands over the weekend, the crowds were nonexistent on Tuesday afternoon. The preserve had only a few vehicles parked at its Embarcadero lot and only a few walkers and runners who were well spread out over the expansive nature preserve.
The impending closure of parking lots follows several weeks in which Palo Alto has gradually shut down its community centers and recreation facilities, including tennis courts, pickleball courts, playgrounds and athletic fields.
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.