City of Austin closes all public parks for the Easter weekend


Cade Spencer

A local park in the Austin Circle C neighborhood has been closed in response to the citywide park closure. The closures are part of a citywide effort to enforce physical distancing policies.

Arushi Sharma, Dispatch Reporter

The County Parks Recreation Department announced on April 7 that all the county parks and trails in the City of Austin, Williamson County, and Travis County area will be closed throughout Easter weekend, or until Monday, April 13.

These restrictions were set in place after Governor Gregg Abbott’s decision to close down all state parks and historic sites on April 7 at 5 p.m. Abbott acted in response to the order given by President Trump and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to practice social distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

“The temporary closure of our state parks and historic sites will help us achieve this goal by preventing the gathering of large groups of people,” Abbott said in a press conference. “I urge all Texans to continue to stay at home except for essential services as we respond to COVID-19. By following these social distance practices, we will overcome this challenge together.”

Because of the stay at home order given by Abbott, people across the state have gotten creative about going outside to get fresh air. As large numbers of people flock to community parks and trails, it becomes harder for people to follow the CDC’s order of staying six feet apart, an issue the new closures hope to solve.

“My family and I have spent several hours in the past few weeks hiking trails around the Austin area,” sophomore Susan Leifker said. “Although I’m sad that I won’t get to hike this weekend, I know that it’s best for the city to prevent the number of cases in Austin from increasing.”

The citywide closure includes all city parks, trails, green belts and preserves including the popular Roy and Ann Butler Hike and Bike Trail. 

“Parks are popular places and the crowds we typically see on holidays, like Easter weekend, leave minimal opportunity to practice social distancing,” Williamson County Parks and Recreation Director Russell Fishbeck said in a public announcement..

The City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department will post signs around the parks, trails and greenbelt, and entry gates will be closed to enforce the closures. 

“I’m concerned about the people that I see bunching up together on the trails when they’re running or the people in the parks,” Austin Mayor Steve Alder said in a press conference. “It’s important that we close down the parks and trails this weekend. Quite frankly, I think we need to consider closing them down at the end of that period as well so that we really do show the discipline that we need to show in this community.”

After the Easter weekend, however, limited activities such as walking, hiking and biking will  be available. Previously, all playgrounds and restrooms in public parks were closed after Governor Abbot’s issued the stay at home order last month. 

“I think that it’s smart that they closed the parks for Easter weekend because it will reduce the likelihood of large gatherings of people celebrating Easter and having egg hunts,” sophomore Malaika Beg said. “Unfortunately at the moment, it is critical and for the best to insure everyone is healthy and safe.” 

There are reports of 597 cases of Coronavirus in Austin as of 12 p.m. Thursday, April 9 according to the City of Austin’s website. 

“What Austin does in this moment matters,” Adler said in a public announcement. “Data indicates that limiting contact between individuals can slow the spread of the virus, giving our healthcare facilities and staff some breathing room to prepare for the next phase of the response.”