TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Two parks were closed by the Travis County Parks Department due to overcrowding Sunday afternoon.
Travis County Parks tweeted that Milton Reimers Ranch and Pace Bend Park were closed after experiencing “a large number of park visitors.” The department added: “In order to manage the safety of visitors and staff, the park is closed for the day.”
Milton Reimers Ranch is western Travis County along the Pedernales River. Pace Bend Park is in far western Travis County along Lake Travis.
People at Pace Bend Park Sunday explained to KXAN that they were allowed to be admitted to the park earlier on in the day, but eventually the park stopped allowing any additional visitors in. For those who did make it in to visit the park, there were limitations, presumably to mitigate the risk of any unnecessary social contact.
Beach access at Reimers Ranch Park was available to pedestrians only. The boat ramps at Pace Bend Park remain closed.
“They just said the bathrooms were closed, the barbecue pits [were closed], and no spending the night, we have to be gone by 7,” explained Megan Roberts, who was at Pace Bend Park on Sunday.
Roberts said that earlier on in the day the park was much more crowded with a full parking lot.
“People were fishing and swimming and cliff diving, it’s died down a lot,”
On April 13, multiple Travis County parks and City of Austin parks were re-opened for daily use as long as social distancing guidelines were followed. Reimers Ranch and Pace Bend Park were among the parks opened for walking, hiking and biking, according to the Travis County parks website.
City and County parks in Travis County had been closed over Easter weekend to avoid as many gatherings as possible over the holiday.
When the parks reopened, additional precautions were put in place, for example, City of Austin parks have limited parking to avoid overcrowding.
While the crowds are a concern, local health leaders also recognize that even during a pandemic there can be health benefits to safely spending time outdoors. A release about the April 13 reopening of City of Austin parks noted, “this decision was made in consultation with the Public Health Authority and the City of Austin Equity Office, recognizing the positive benefits parks and trails have on mental and physical health when used while practicing physical distancing.”
Under Travis County and the City of Austin’s “stay home, work safe” orders, which have been extended to last through May 8, everyone is required to keep a six food distance from people not in their immediate family.
Also under that same order, in Travis County, people over the age of ten are required to wear face coverings while outdoors. There are some exceptions which may apply to people going to parks, for example you do not need to wear a face covering if you are outside by yourself. Additionally, you do not need to wear a face covering if you are outside but staying six feet away from others under the Travis County order.
The warm and sunny weather over the weekend brought many people outdoors, packing into Austin area parks and greenbelts. While many people were conscientious of local rules, not all park-goers were complying.