Vehicle access closed at Auburn State Recreation area, other state parks
California State Parks announced Sunday it is temporarily closing vehicle access at all 280 state parks to prevent the spread of coronavirus. This includes the Auburn State Recreation Area.
(Photo: Crowds at the confluence at Auburn SRA, this area is now closed)
At Auburn State Recreation Area, park officials closed all gates, parking areas and roadside parking in the confluence area. The park remains open to entry by bike, horse and foot, but visitors are strongly encouraged to stay local if they want to get out of the house.
Mike Howard, Superintendent of Auburn State Recreation Area, said he was waiting for the state to take this action, after the confluence drew heavy crowds of people seeking recreation among the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. "If this level of closure still doesn’t disperse people, the department will consider a hard closure,” Howard said. “Let’s hope we don’t get there.” Howard said park officials handed out 80 parking violations a week ago during a crowd Mayor Bill Kirby likened to the “beaches of Southern California. I totally understand people’s desire to get outdoors, but we are at the point where people need to do that near their homes,” Howard said. “Not by traveling out of the area to other communities and definitely not in such a way that that causes crowding.”
County and state officials agree.
In a statement issued this week, Placer County Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson said, “We ask residents to use common sense and stay close to home to get their exercise, as the state has said as well. Traveling between different communities contributes to the spread of disease and the burden on small hospital systems.”
Placer County parks
Placer County Parks Division has not closed parking all together but has created a parking reservation system at its biggest location – Hidden Falls Regional Park. Hidden Falls, which is in Auburn, is a 1,200-acre park featuring 30 miles of hiking trails.
“The health and safety of our park guests is our top priority,” said Placer County Parks Administrator Andy Fisher. “We’re thankful to have our beautiful parks open for guests to enjoy, but we’ll need everyone to do their part and apply social distancing during their visit, on foot, on bike or on horse.”
Fisher said Hidden Falls has morning and afternoon and full-day parking sessions available for reservation, keeping vehicle attendance at about 100. Fisher said the park has seen an increase in visitors but has not been overcrowded. Fisher said he recommends that visitors avoid all high-contact areas in the parks to help slow the spread of COVID-19. While the bathrooms at Hidden Falls are still open, the Parks Division closed drinking fountains, playgrounds, picnic tables and benches at all of its parks.
Bear River Campground in Colfax has also been a popular place for park-goers recently, Fisher said. The Parks Division has delayed the opening of the campsites, but the campground is still open for day use. “We have seen quite a bit of use there,” Fisher said. “We don’t have a reservation system there yet, but we are watching it closely.”
Fisher echoed the same advice as other park officials. “It’s a good time to get outdoors but it's best to stay in parks near your home rather than going a long way away,” he said. “It’s very easy to overwhelm our services. We really do want to keep our parks open, people are cooped up, but it has to be orderly and it has to be safe.”
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