Residents will be able to access city parks for walking and biking and golfers will get to tee up once again in Costa Mesa as the state begins to prepare to start reopening later this week.
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City council members voted unanimously to pass a resolution late Tuesday to partially reopen some parks and golf courses for limited use with mandatory safety requirements in place during their first council meeting over the online meeting platform Zoom.
“It complies with the governor’s stay at home order, it allows for active use of our open spaces and I think under the circumstances that we have right now, it’s the appropriate thing to do,” said Councilman John Stephens about the limited reopening of parks.
City parks except for the Tennis Center, the Bark Park, the Skate Park and Fairview Park will be open during regular hours for walking and biking only and visitors will be expected to wear masks and maintain social distancing practices.
While parks will be open they will be used only for passive recreational activity such as walking or biking. This means no picnics, gathering or stopping of any kind when people visit the parks. Residents can not stop on the grass and restrooms and playground equipment will have a phased opening.
“This process of reopening is frustrating. It’s new,” said City Manager Lori Ann Farrell Harrison. “Gatherings at this point are still strongly discouraged and so we’re seeing at the state level with the guidance and we’re seeing at the county level with the guidance, it’s: use it and keep moving, do not stick. Do not sit, do not picnic.”
During the meeting, Councilwoman Sandra Genis had suggested that stopping be allowed and that residents be allowed on the grass as long as they are not gathering. Councilman Allan Mansoor called for parks to be opened completely.
“We’ve got to trust people to a degree. Most people are keeping their distance appropriately. It’s their Park and they should be able to use it,” Mansoor said. “It’s ridiculous that the grass is closed. It’s just outright ridiculous.”
Although Mansoor said he wanted parks opened completely he voted to open with the restrictions in place.
“A little bit is better than nothing,” Mansoor said.
Residents also called on the council to open up all parks including Fairview Park.
City staff have recommended the opening of Fairview Park be phased out as it encompasses different natural habitats that are home for over 30 special species that will require surveying. The city must all take care of overgrowth on the trails to ensure safe access to open up the trails.
Staff expect to open a biking trail in the park by Friday. There will be a map online to show which portions of the park are open and which are still in the process of being open.
On April 21, the city council announced that a committee including city staff, councilmembers and community was formed to develop a plan to reopen the parks.
Due to the financial impact of the virus, the city has proposed millions in budget cuts which has resulted in the layoff of 54 part time parks and community services employees and a furlough of 30 employees, Harrison said.
Acting as the director of emergency services, Harrison issued a regulation on April 28 to allow park and golf courses to partially reopen to the public.
Harrison had issued a regulation more than one month prior to that to close all parks and open spaces after city staff noticed an uptick in park visitors engaging in sports and group activities.
The city council ratified the regulation one day later.
City staff has also worked with the golf course operators and park experts to establish rules and regulations for this first phase of limited reopening. Infractions will be cited.
Golf courses within the city limits may also partially reopen with mandatory guidelines in place. Courses will be walking only. Golfers can use hand carts and must bring their own clubs, tees and equipment to play.
Driving ranges, practice putting greens, clubhouses, pro shops, restaurants, bars and bag rooms will all remain closed. Tee times must be paid online and will be spaced out 10 minutes apart from each other.
Those who do not follow the guidelines will be removed from the course. Employees will be stationed all around the courses to ensure social distancing practices are maintained.
Councilwoman Andrea Marr said that at this time this is the appropriate decision to make in terms of the limited reopening up of the parks.
“We’re going to continue changing over the next month as conditions change. We all recognize that there’s a possibility for infections to spike and for us to go backwards,” Marr said.
“As the situation changes, I expect the city manager is going to bring back revisions on a fairly regular basis.”
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC news intern. Contact him @firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam