Facing park closure overkill

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You don’t have to “snooze to lose” in this rapidly changing COVID-19 environment – all you must do is blink.

Last week, I wrote about “cabin fever” caused by business closures, social distancing, and shelter in place directives causing isolation and restlessness – that a good way to counteract those effects would be to head to a nearby park. Now, many of the parks in which you might have enjoyed breathing clean, fresh air while getting some much-needed exercise and maybe a meal or two of fish have been closed.

Forget my suggestion for beating the isolation by taking a walk in the woods. The solitude of a park with hiking trails and a concrete-free environment is now off-limits in places.

And boat ramps have been closed.

But is closing public boat ramps and parks justified? Especially boat ramps? If you’re out in a boat on the water, you are in a most virus-free area. As far as park closures are concerned, if overcrowding was threatening breach of the six-foot social distancing due to overcrowding, couldn’t a maximum park entry number be established and enforced with minor personnel exposure?

I’m not seeing a threat. Are they expecting hordes of drooling people arriving? I haven’t seen any numbers, but in Central Texas, I see locals that have probably not been in a state park for decades, if at all. There are several recently closed parks that I’ve been in and never seen anyone else there, nor even an attendant.

The National Park Service has even dispensed with entry fees to encourage visitation. Texas State Parks are still open although fewer attendants and services are available and credit cards are the preferred currency. No cash or checks accepted. And it’s better to go through the State Park online registration system in advance. That’s a built-in control against overcrowding.

Most of the closures have been the work of municipalities or others controlling parklands. According to a reliable journalist in Houston, Port Aransas has closed fishing on the jetties and from the bank. Some Corps of Engineers parks, like Lake Granger, are closed, but the boat ramps are said to be open. The ramps on Fayette County Lake are closed as are the ones on Lake Bastrop. The popular ramp on Lake Travis at Mansfield Dam is closed. But several private ramps are open, according to fishermen. In fact, local anglers and tackle shops are good sources of information, provided the shops haven’t been closed. Some of the big box outdoor stores are still open and the Texas Attorney General’s opinion on interfering with firearm sales may keep others open. President Trump agrees.

Being in a high-risk category myself and married to a registered nurse who has spent most of the past two weekends – and 10- to 12-hour days in between – working on the coronavirus threat, rest assured I’m aware of the awful consequences of infection. I want none of it. I believe in doing everything possible to end the coronavirus spread.

But with common sense.

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