Austin pools, playgrounds, several greenbelts close in response to COVID-19 spike

Coronavirus

(KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department will be closing all park amenities and programs in response to an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

In a memo issued by city manager Spencer Cronk to city leaders on Thursday, the city manager spelled out changes to six city departments as a result in the continued increase of COVID-19 spread in the Austin area.

Already, all PARD parks and facilities were scheduled to be closed from Friday July 3 through Sunday July 5. But this new memo explains that when Monday, July 6 comes around, the parks themselves will re-open but the park amenities will stay closed indefinitely, a spokesperson for PARD explained.

Amenities like playgrounds, volleyball courts, tennis courts and disc golf courses will be closed as part of this effort. The only amenities that will remain open are restrooms and water fountains, the city said.

Facilities that belong to the parks department will be closed as well, including facilities that had reopened like cultural facilities, pools, golf courses, tennis facilities and park concessions.

The city says that the Barton Creek and Bull Creek Greenbelts will also remain closed. The city’s in-person programming for the month of July will be suspended, including sports and fitness programming, summer camps and cultural programming.

On June 30, the department closed Deep Eddy and Barton Springs pools pending an evaluation from Austin Public Health.

An Austin Park Ranger encourages voluntary compliance with social distancing measures on the Hike and Bike trail on May 9, 2020. (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard)

The city notes that all City of Austin parks and trails will remain open, but rules about wearing a mask and using social distancing continue to apply. Park rangers will continue to patrol parks and educate park-goers to get people to voluntarily comply.

State orders do not give cities the power to enforce social distancing or the wearing of face coverings on their own. While the city and county have the taken action allowed by the state to require businesses to require face coverings for customers and staff, the enforcement of these measures designed to curb the spread of the virus is largely left up to voluntary compliance.

The city added that these changes will not impact any PARD sites identified as polling locations for the election.

A spokesperson for the parks department explained that it has yet to be determined how long these closures will continue, but he noted that the closer to the end of July the department should have an update.

The city says a full list of current park closures is available at this link.

Impacts to other departments

Austin Resource Recovery will again suspend curbside pickup of bulk and large brush. This comes after ARR had begun providing that service again for the last 3 weeks. Customers who received a postcard for the weeks of July 6- July 24 will still have this collection service during that time, but otherwise these services will be suspended until further notice.

To protect the health and safety of city staff who are collecting these pickups or trash the city asks that residents bag and tie their trash to keep material contained. Recycling, the city notes, should not be bagged.

While the city’s Recyle and Reuse Drop-off Center had re-started accepting customer drop-offs by appointment only and collecting household hazardous waste from customer’s homes in early June, this center will close again until further notice after July 3 for the safety of staff and residents.

ARR will continue to offer contactless pickup of household hazardous waste for customers who call (512)974-4343 to schedule.

ARR has partnered with Goodwill of Central Texas on the Clothing & Housewares Curbside Collection Program, which allows customers to schedule free at-home pick-up of unwanted clothing, shoes, accessories, toys, linens, and housewares. Customers can visit austintexas.gov/clothing or call 512-637-7190 for more information or to schedule a pickup.

Austin Water says the main gate and treatment pond at Hornsby Bend has reopened to the public, but all visitors are required to check in at the entry gate, follow social distancing guidelines, and wear as mask.

The River Trail and the Platt Lane trail are open for hiking and biking activity.

The office of the city clerk will have staff in the office on a rotating basis between July 6 and July 17 to prepare for the upcoming candidate filing period and Council budget meetings. The office will be open by appointment only during the hours of 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. Starting Monday, July 20, the office will be open with reduced staff to take in-person public inquiries like accepting ballot applications, petitions, and liquor licenses. When the office is open, only two visitors will be allowed in at a time.

Austin Public Health reopened the Shots for Tots clinic with limited operations and has begun working through a waitlist of appointments, prioritizing those who are at higher risk fo severe symptoms as services expand. People who do not already have an established health care provider for their child are encouraged to find someone to see for regular wellness checks and vaccinations.

Austin Code Department’s administrative hearings have been pushed back to start on July 13.

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