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All Marin County parks closed to cars after crowds disregard novel coronavirus orders

Weekend crowds were last straw for public health officials pushing to drive down COVID-19 spread

A carved wooden sign that reads “Muir Woods” against a backdrop of redwood trees.
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley.
Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

All parks in Marin County are closed as of Sunday, after a potentially disastrous number of Bay Area residents flocked to the North Bay over the weekend.

This closure refers only to motorized access to and from Marin parks and open spaces. “We still encourage residents to walk or bike to a park or trail near their home,” says Marin County Parks.

According to Marin County Parks, all 18,400 acres of park space in the county will remain closed to cars until further notice, noting that the county Department of Health and Human Services requested the shutdown Sunday.

The county health agency said that summertime-like crowds of people traveled to Marin destinations over the weekend. Sgt. Brenton Schneider of the Marin County Sheriff’s Office said in a public statement that the crowding “is creating unsafe conditions for employees working at businesses that are staying open because they are deemed essential.”

While the shelter-in-place orders affecting the entire state right now allow people to leave the house for outdoor activities like waking, hiking, and cycling—critical tools for staving off cabin fever—Marin County Deputy Public Health Officer Lisa Santora said that the volume of weekend visitors was too great to allow for safe social distancing.

“It would be best if residents and visitors enjoy the weather and natural beauty in their own [...] neighborhoods,” said Santora.

SFGate reports that the closure includes Point Reyes National Seashore, Mount Tamalpais State Park, Muir Woods National Monument, and Point Bonita Lighthouse. Dozens of other parks, beaches, and nature preserves are on the closure list, and the county furnishes a full list of off-limits areas here.

As of Sunday, Marin County reported 38 detected cases of COVID-19. No one in the county has died of the disease, but four patients with the novel coronavirus remain hospitalized. Diagnoses are up across the Bay Area, even jumping 25 percent to 105 in San Francisco, although it’s difficult to tell if the increase reflects a growing outbreak or just more tests being conducted.

While the shelter-in-place orders remain in place throughout the Bay Area, unnecessary travel and gathering in groups may qualify as a misdemeanor. Police may issue citations to anyone flouting public health orders.

SFPD said via Twitter on Friday that thus far the department has not issued any citations. San Jose police Chief Eddie Garcia warns that his department will begin enforcing the rules more strictly this week.

However, the San Jose Police Department tweeted that police cannot detain anyone for suspected violation of public health orders, and that it does not consider merely being outdoors suspicious behavior “considering the broad spectrum of legitimate reasons” for travel.

Public health officers in all nine Bay Area counties, as well as the governor’s office, continue to advise that minimizing social contact with others is the best way to slow down the rate of new infections.