Dozens of people were running, walking and biking on the path that runs around a lake in Creve Coeur Park Friday afternoon, soaking up the last few hours before St. Louis County shut the site down.
County officials are closing parks from Friday night until April 22 in order to slow the spread of coronavirus. Residents interviewed in Creve Coeur Park Friday said they were disappointed but mostly understood that parks might be hot spots for the virus.
“It will impact our mental health a little bit. It’s nice to get outside and get some fresh air, especially at the parks,” said Jessica Compton, who lives in St. Ann.
Compton said she had mostly been going to parks to fish since the county closed down restaurants, gyms and other businesses a couple of weeks ago.
Elise Dierfeld, a student home from the University of Missouri-Columbia, goes to a local park almost daily to relax. She said parks are a good break from her online classes and help her get out of the house.
Still, Dierfield said she agreed with the county’s decision to shut down parks temporarily. Both of her parents are health care providers, and she worries that crowds in parks could spread coronavirus faster.
“As a young person, I’m upset about the parks closing, because that’s like my safe haven right now, but also high-risk people should not be exposed to the virus,” she said.
Marion Meeker, who lives near Creve Coeur Park, said she was supportive of closing down the parks but also skeptical that it would keep people from interacting with each other.
She fears closing the parks will only put more people on neighborhood sidewalks and streets. Many sidewalks in the county are narrow and already crowded since people are spending more time at home, she said.
St. Louis County will close all parks starting at 8 p.m. Friday in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Barricades will be placed at park entrances of Creve Coeur Lake Park, Jefferson Barracks Park, Lone Elk Park and Grant’s Trail.
St. Louis County Parks Director Tom Ott said in a statement that warmer weather is driving crowds to parks. “During this health crisis, we cannot allow large groups of people to be together in one place,” he said.
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said in a statement that the decision will help save lives.
“I had hoped we could keep the parks open, but the spread of COVID-19 is too big of a threat to the health of our residents,” he said.
The county said it’s counting on goodwill and common sense to enforce the rule, but if needed, park rangers and county police will patrol parks.
Parks are expected to stay closed through at least April 22.
In St. Louis, parks are still open, but earlier this week the city began restricting vehicle traffic. The move aims to reduce the number of visitors and allow more space for people seeking fresh air and exercise during the stay-at-home orders.
The city will close all or some streets until April 22 in O’Fallon, Willmore, Fairground, Carondelet and Forest parks. Roads on the east end of Tower Grove Park closed to cars last week.
Four Missouri state parks closed to the public Thursday following concerns about crowds.
Those parks are expected to stay closed until the end of the month. They include: Castlewood State Park, Elephant Rocks State Park, Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site and Park, and Weston Bend State Park.
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