Coronavirus shutdown of hiking, biking, boating near 100% on Peninsula

New levels of closures were ordered as the weekend arrived at parks on the Peninsula, with 15 county parks, 13 open space preserves, four state parks and three boat ramps shut down to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

In San Mateo County, health officials also ordered that travel be restricted to within 5 miles of a residence. Just a handful of city-operated parks were left open for recreational access over the weekend.

When Gov. Gavin Newsom’s shelter-in-place order included a provision for hiking, biking and running for fitness, many county parks, open space preserves and state parks on the Peninsula were overwhelmed with visitors. Park officials verified overflowing parking areas, trails with clusters of people and mountain bikers at times riding at high rates of speed.

“We know that simply being in nature can provide a much-needed respite during challenging times like these, but if we can’t keep our open space preserves safe, we can’t keep them open,” said Ana Maria Ruiz, general manager of the Midpeninsula Open Space District. “We’re urging the public to cooperate and avoid crowding.”

Ruiz said the district would reopen 11 of its 13 open space preserves on weekdays, but that all trails would remain closed to mountain bikes and horseback riding after a recent spike in use and accidents. The two preserves that will be closed seven days a week are Windy Hill, which spans from Portola Valley to Skyline Boulevard, and Teague Hill in Woodside.

Three county boat ramps and associate parking areas — at Oyster Point in South San Francisco, Coyote Point in San Mateo, and Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay — have been shut down by the San Mateo Harbor Commission.

California State Parks scrapped a tentative date posted earlier this month to reopen some parks on the outskirts of the Bay Area to hiking and three parks in Santa Cruz County, eight in Monterey County, 11 in Sonoma County and 22 in Mendocino County were kept closed to all parking and access. All 280 state parks and beaches in California are closed.

“Any decision to reopen additional state parks will be made in close coordination with state and local public health officials, the governor’s office and the state Office of Emergency Services,” said Adeline Yee of California State Parks.

In Sonoma County, where volunteers and docents run Jack London State Historic Park, two volunteers, Kathy Hillback-Ely and her husband George Ely, said the way of life they had created has vanished.

“We are really missing our volunteer activity at Jack London Park,” Hillback-Ely said. “We’re looking forward to getting back up there. Activity now has been pretty much just taking long walks around town.”

In San Francisco, major parking areas for access to beaches and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area are closed. In Marin, all parking and drive-in access to state parks, Marin County Parks and Open Space, and the Marin Watershed have been shut down. Access is permitted on trails for those who bicycle, hike or run to the trail heads.

In the East Bay Regional Park District, eight of 73 parks are closed to all access, including Point Isabel, Castle Rock, Sunol, Del Valle and Tilden, said spokesman Dave Mason. The trail head at Stanford Avenue for Mission Peak has been closed and fenced, with an alternative trail head accessible at Ohlone College.

Facilities are closed at all parks, including restrooms, noted East Bay Regional Park District General Manager Bob Doyle, who said visitors should bring a garbage bag and “pack out their litter.”

Another sweeping closure is at lakes that provide fishing and boating in the East Bay hills, including San Pablo, Lafayette, Del Valle and Los Vaqueros, ordered by the water districts that operate them.

The governor’s shelter-in-place order includes the provision that individuals “may leave their residence … to engage in outdoor activity, provided the individuals comply with the Social Distancing Requirements, such as, by way of example and without limitation, walking, hiking, or running.”

“Public health officials are advising the public to walk, run, hike and bike in their local neighborhoods and walk to parks,” said Yee of California State Parks.

Tom Stienstra is The San Francisco Chronicle’s outdoors writer. Email: Twitter: @StienstraTom

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