Last weekend, mayor Jenny Durkan closed 15 of Seattle's most frequented parks in advance of a splendid weather weekend. While the city had been receiving good marks for its social distancing efforts during the coronavirus pandemic, overcrowding remained, let's say, an area for improvement in places like Alki Beach Park and Green Lake.
Though another mild weekend looks to be in store, Durkan isn't going to stop you from wandering through Cal Anderson Park this time around. On Thursday, she announced that those 15 parks will stay open on Saturday and Sunday, provided visitors stay six feet apart and "keep it moving" by walking, running, biking, or even "rolling." No barbecuing, picnicking, or sports games will be allowed. (Parking lots at larger parks will be closed.) Seattle Parks and Recreation's "social distancing ambassadors" (paging Amy Poehler) will monitor park usage every hour; spaces that become too crowded will be shut down. Civilians can also report social distancing offenders by contacting Seattle Parks and Recreation through social media, calling 206-684-4075, or emailing [email protected]
Last weekend, the number of visitors at those 15 parks was down significantly but not completely. Enforcement was spotty. And the move faced criticism for closing open spaces that many vulnerable populations rely on, an issue that has been raised in cities like Portland and remedied in others, like Oakland, by closing certain streets to cars.
Well, the city appears to have listened to this latter complaint. Its "Stay Healthy Streets" program will pilot in West Seattle/High Point and the Central District for the duration of the pandemic emergency. Aside from resident traffic and deliveries, vehicles will be banned in "portions of neighborhood greenways along 25th Ave S and 34th Ave SW/SW Graham and Holly St/High Point Dr SW," which "will open up to people living in the neighborhood for walking, rolling, and biking," according to the mayor's release.
The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) wants to convert about 15 miles of city streets "in the coming weeks" into Stay Healthy Streets. The pilot areas were chosen to increase outdoor activity in "areas with limited open space options, low car ownership and routes connecting people to essential services and food takeout," SDOT says. "We also ensured street closures did not impact newly opened food pick up loading zones, parking around hospitals for service for health care professionals, and bus routes."
The mayor also confirmed that the University District Farmers Market and Ballard Farmers Market will reopen on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. If all goes well, others may soon follow suit. "The city will work with the farmers markets this weekend to monitor compliance with necessary public health practices and will determine the possibility for extended openings for these and other markets after this weekend," according to the mayor's press release.
Welcome news as the weather continues to be a rare bright spot during these dark times.