Staying away from our city's stunning outdoor spaces falls relatively low on the list of sacrifices we’re making to stem the spread of COVID-19. But the news that Mayor Jenny Durkan will shut down 15 of Seattle’s “most significant parks” and beaches definitely sucked some dazzle out of the brilliant days to come.
Per her announcement yesterday, these parks close tonight at 11pm and reopen Monday at 4:30 in the morning. It’s hard to argue with the wisdom of this decision after hearing reports of frisbee games and pathways clogged with people. As the release puts it, "significant gatherings and disregard for social distancing have continued" despite our current statewide order to stay home.
Neighborhood parks are still an option, but social distancing only works because a good portion of your neighbors are staying inside. And we all probably need a little time in this sunshine to maintain sanity. Maybe it’s time to look at parks and outdoor spaces the way we do grocery stores—a place that deserves some guidelines so everybody can get access and still be safe and responsible. Waiting in line (in the sun) for 30 minutes at Volunteer Park sounds way more pleasant than the half hour I spent in the cold last week awaiting my turn at Trader Joe’s. Something like this, perhaps?
Durkan’s office said that police officers and parks staff will be stationed at parks and beaches this weekend to monitor compliance; for now it’s voluntary, though the Seattle Times says the city attorney's office is considering a potential citation program. Maybe we can all spend our weekend indoors pondering a more productive way to go for a run or let our kids dig on the beach next time great weather strikes.