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Phoenix increasing restrictions at parks, with stricter rules for Easter

(Facebook Photo/City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department)

PHOENIX – Phoenix is implementing extra restrictions at city parks and golf courses to combat the spread of the coronavirus and will enact additional measures for Easter weekend.

The city said Thursday it is closing all ramadas and picnic tables in its public flatland parks, desert parks and mountain preserves, effective immediately.

Additionally, the city’s eight public golf courses will now limit cart rentals to one person — or two family members — per vehicle.

Arizona’s golf courses can remain open having been deemed “essential services” under Gov. Doug Ducey’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected” order that went into effect earlier this week.

The order encourages Arizonans to spend time outdoors while most other activities outside the home are prohibited during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, people rushing to parks and hiking trails haven’t always followed the guidelines about staying at least 6 feet away from others.

(Update: Ducey issued a clarification of his order Friday afternoon, with the following statewide restrictions that might not be reflected in the plans Phoenix enacted Thursday: “Amenities at public parks that do not allow for recommended physical distancing or proper hygiene such as basketball courts, splash pads, playgrounds and public restrooms but public parks shall remain open to the greatest extent possible.”)

To curb overcrowding and violations of social distancing guidelines over Easter weekend, Phoenix announced the following additional policy measures for April 11-12.

  • Flatland park access will be limited to walking paths and green space.
  • Picnicking will be prohibited, but restrooms will remain open.
  • Parking lots at flatland parks will be closed except to vehicles with disabled parking placards.

That’s on top of ongoing restrictions the city placed on its outdoor recreation space to encourage physical distancing.

On March 28, a limited access policy went into effect for parking lot and trails at Papago Park’s Hole in the Rock, Camelback Mountain’s Echo Canyon trailhead, Piestewa Peak trailhead and South Mountain Park’s Pima Canyon trailhead and Dobbins Lookout.

As of March 31, all playgrounds, fitness equipment, basketball and volleyball courts and sports complexes located in city parks have been off-limits, too.

Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department isn’t the only Arizona agency restricting usage at outdoor recreation spaces.

The Coconino National Forest is closing popular hiking trails and day sites in the scenic red rocks area of Sedona because of large numbers of hikers and a failure to practice social distancing.

Sites to be closed this weekend until further notice include the Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock and Courthouse Vista trailheads, forest officials announced Thursday.

The announcement said the closures were made in coordination with Sedona and Verde Valley officials concerned about the possible impact on local health and emergency services.

“We realize these popular destinations in Sedona are places people rejuvenate by getting outside and experiencing the beauty this area has to offer,” said Red Rock District Ranger Amy Tinderholt. “However, the unfortunate reality at these locations during this pandemic has been continued high use, causing crowds to form and people lining up just to hike or get to the end of the trail.

“We will not keep trails and areas open that create environments for COVID-19 to spread easily, which negates the important practice of social distancing.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

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