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Maintaining safety: Help keep SLO's open spaces open with health-conscious habits 

Recreation officials throughout San Luis Obispo County are asking residents to adhere to social distancing guidelines when enjoying outdoor spaces to avoid the closure of open spaces and trails.

click to enlarge ENJOYING THE OUTDOORS Visitors can still enjoy open spaces and trails for the time being, as long as they maintain a 6-foot distance from others. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SLO PARKS AND RECREACTION INSTAGRAM
  • Photo Courtesy Of SLO Parks And Recreaction Instagram
  • ENJOYING THE OUTDOORS Visitors can still enjoy open spaces and trails for the time being, as long as they maintain a 6-foot distance from others.

SLO Parks and Recreation Department Director Greg Avakian told New Times, the department "knows both the physical and mental wellness of our community is to be outside and moving" as well as enjoying the fresh the air.

"The closures of all of our facilities for safety that include the playground, the slides, and those kinds of things. We are trying to do everything we can to maintain our availability for our open space trails," Avakian said.

To keep visitors safe, the department is implementing directional signage on trails to keep hikers on one track—and avoid run-ins with people going in the opposite direction. There is also educational signage at all trailheads on the importance of maintaining 6 feet from one another.

"We're even incorporating park ambassadors at our neighborhood parks to try to help educate people on social distancing," he said.

The department is doing everything possible to inform the community through social media, signage, and increased staff presence to ensure their safety.

"Because if our community can't adhere to these ordinances then we will have to follow what our colleagues have done at the Pismo Preserve and Los Angeles County," he said. "We're trying to do everything possible to avoid that, but it takes our community to also play their role."

LA County closed its trail system to the public because it was too difficult for the large influx of trail users to maintain social distancing, and something similar happened with the Pismo Preserve. After monitoring visitor use over the weekend of March 21 and 22, The Land Conservancy of SLO County announced on March 23 that it had closed the Pismo Preserve until further notice.

Executive Director Kaila Dettman told New Times that the conservancy has been working with the city of Pismo Beach to monitor visitor use at the preserve, which opened to the public for the first time in January. Dettman said she drove through the parking lot of the Pismo Preserve a couple of times March 22. It was packed.

"The bottom line is it's a really popular place. The single-track trails in many locations are pretty narrow, and it can be hard for people to pass each other without coming near each other," she said.

She said there was a lot of congestion in the parking lot, people coming and going, and using the restroom facilities.

"Even though most people were trying to abide by social distancing, it's hard to do," she said.

The decision was not made lightly, Dettman said, and the organization is very sad to close the preserve.

"But we believe that we have a responsibility to help slow or stop the spread [of COVID-19] so we're trying to do our part to do that. The trails will be there when this all passes," she said.

In the meantime, the conservancy still encourages people to get outside but do it near their own homes—a walk around the block or a bike ride through your neighborhood.

In addition to the threat of closure for trails and parks, State Parks officials announced on March 24 that additional safety measures were in place to reduce crowds and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In a press release, officials stated many parks and beaches received record visitation over the weekend, which made it impossible for the public to implement appropriate social distancing practices.

As a result State Parks is currently working closely with local county and public health officials to modify park operations by closing vehicular traffic at some park units to reduce the density of visitors. All campgrounds across the state are closed until further notice.

San Luis Obispo County Parks director Nick Franco said no new camping reservations are allowed within the county-operated campgrounds, but the department is currently honoring existing reservations. Δ

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