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Palo Alto Open Space Parking Limitations in Effect

Arastradero, Foothills Park, and Baylands are closed to vehicular traffic, City urging the community to stay at or close to home this weekend

We are in this together and we ask for your help as we work to keep our community safe during this time of public health emergency.

Palo Alto Open Spaces are Closed to Vehicular Traffic

As of Friday, March 27, the City closed its Open Space Preserves (Baylands, Foothills Park and Arastradero) to vehicular traffic. Visitors can still walk or bike in. This blog provides more details on this decision as we understand and empathize with the need to exercise, and get outside, especially during this challenging time. Unfortunately, with the high number of visitors to the City’s Open Space areas, people haven’t been consistently adhering to social distancing recommendations on both weekdays and weekends. The recent rain and cooler weather likely reduced visitation over the past several days, but nicer weather will bring even more visitors to the Open Space Preserves this weekend and beyond.

The difficult decision to close Palo Alto’s Open Space Preserves to vehicle access was made to protect the community and to ensure social distancing is maintained. While most users are mindful of this rule, unfortunately because there are some users that do not and managing the crowds has become problematic.

Larger than Normal Crowds Stretch Valuable City Resources

Limitations are now in place to reduce large groups of people gathering. Vehicle access at the Preserves becomes problematic when there are large crowds. Overcrowded parking areas cause frustration for users and can require Rangers to attend to parking control rather than focusing on the safety of the visitors in our Open Space Preserves.

Despite extensive public information, some users see the Open Space Preserves as an opportunity to gather with friends. This is not only contrary to the County of Santa Clara Public Health Officer’s Order, but also presents a risk to other users as large groups are difficult (sometimes impossible) to pass without close contact.

This has other impacts as well. When users do not respect social distancing, others call on Rangers or our Police Department to enforce against their behavior. This stretches our first responder resources, making them less available for actual emergencies. In addition, the presence of large crowds at the Open Space Preserves requires our Rangers to be in frequent contact with users in a variety of situations. This is not an appropriate role for our staff, as it increases their risk of exposure while taking away from their need to focus on ensuring the safety and conservation of the Open Space Preserves. Given that families are now working and learning at home as well as the improving weather, we anticipate that weekday crowds will be significantly increasing. For this reason, we do not expect that a weekend-only closure will address the issues we are facing.

More Staffing is Not the Solution

Most of the issues above could be mitigated with additional staffing at the Preserves. However, this would involve staffing at a level more typical of major events, and would be contrary to the Santa Clara County Public Health Officer’s Order. The Order clearly calls on us all to reduce the level of activity in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, and presents challenges for all cities in the region managing parks and open spaces, not just the City of Palo Alto. If large crowds continue at our parks and Open Space Preserves, we will have no choice but to close them for the safety of the whole community. San Mateo County recently closed all their parks in light of overcrowding and the public health risks. Also, Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District will temporarily close Windy Hill Preserve.

Open Space Preserves and Local Parks Are Still Accessible

Open Space Preserves are still accessible by foot and bike, although we understand that will not be a realistic option for those that don’t live within hiking or biking distance to an Open Space Preserve. Local parks and walking in neighborhoods are other options. It is a challenging time for everyone in the world, and our community is being asked to make some short-term sacrifices in an effort to stem the tide of this global health threat. In addition, closing vehicle access to Open Space Preserves, the City’s tennis courts, pickleball courts, basketball courts, skatepark, playgrounds, and athletic fields have also been temporarily closed. Closures are in the interest of public health and safety and in alignment with the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department’s Order to shelter in place and the State’s Safe at Home Order. Please stay home or close to home.

We Appreciate Your Patience During this Time

As a community we need to work together to fight this virus and ensure the safety of the whole community. We appreciate your patience during this challenging time and cannot urge you enough to stay at home because it will help save lives. We are asking our community to exercise in areas they can get to within walking and biking distance from their homes, while maintaining social distance. We understand this may be a challenge, and that it does not offer the same experience and benefits as hiking and relaxing in our nature preserves. We hope to re-open all of our facilities and allow people to drive into our Open Space Preserves as soon as it is safe to do so.

Thank you for your patience and support. We hope to welcome you back to our facilities soon and in the meantime, be safe and be well.

Helpful Links

Go here for our frequently asked questions.

Go here to read our daily reports.

Go here for our dedicated website on Coronavirus.

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Official communications from the City of Palo Alto. Connect and join the conversation on issues of interest to our community.

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City of Palo Alto

City of Palo Alto

Official communications from the City of Palo Alto. Connect about issues of interest to our community. Follow us on social media-www.cityofpaloalto.org/connect

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