AUSTIN (KXAN) — Many Austinites are turning to parks and trails as a reprieve from quarantining themselves at home.
KXAN investigators began asking city officials about potential park closures last week, when we started hearing from people who were concerned about the growing crowds.
The answers we’ve received have generally been a request for Austinites to use good judgment and practice social distancing at city parks.
The Trail Foundation is now asking people to stay off the Butler Hike and Bike Trail, following the local stay-at-home order announced Tuesday.
“Usage on the Trail has not decreased in the past two weeks,” said Trail Foundation CEO Heidi Anderson. “As local media has reported and we’ve observed, many people are not practicing social distancing and other critical steps to avoid spreading the coronavirus.”
Anderson told KXAN activity on the trail has seemed to increased since social distancing has been encouraged.
“People are flocking to the trail right now, and we understand under that everything’s crazy in the world right now and we all need to be out in nature and breathing some fresh air,” Anderson said, “But what’s happening is the trail is becoming a little overcrowded, and, as a result, a public safety issue in our mind.”
The Foundation doesn’t have the authority to close the trail, but said parts of the trail “make it difficult for people to stay the recommended six feet apart.”
“We’re asking people to honor the spirit of these orders,” said Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott on Tuesday. “The greenbelts are a big space, people can space out.”
The Trail Foundation recommends people exercise close to home, and do so at least six feet away from others.
The Foundation says exercise equipment along the trail is closed, right now.
“We’re seeing a lot of people lining up, trying to wait for their turn on the exercise equipment because their gyms are closed,” Anderson said. “Common sense tells us that’s not a great idea, right now.”
Restrooms and water fountains remain open for now but The Foundation said, “We highly recommend NOT using them as it’s not possible to guarantee safe levels of hygiene.”