(Photo courtesy of the Parks and Rec in D14 Facebook page.)

Families won’t be spending Easter weekend in Dallas parks. On Wednesday, City of Dallas officials announced that all 397 parks would temporarily close to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The parks will shut down at 9 p.m. Friday and reopen at 7 a.m. Monday. Trails will remain open, but users must abide by social distancing guidelines.

City parks have been crowded since Dallas’ shelter-in-place order went into effect. Officials expected usage to increase over the holiday weekend as families used the green space for picnics, barbecues and Easter egg hunts.

“I would have loved for our community to be able to celebrate Easter in our wonderful parks, and I regret that we have to make this decision,” Mayor Eric Johnson said in a statement. “But we cannot take the unnecessary risk of further crowding in our parks right now. We cannot afford to jeopardize the gains that I believe we are making in the fight against COVID-19 with the stay-at-home orders that we have in place.”

The decision to close parks came the same day Dallas County reported 63 new coronavirus cases, a marked decline from the 90-100 cases reported almost every other day this month. Health Director Philip Huang said the stay-at-home order is making a difference, and social distancing measures should continue so the downward trend doesn’t reverse.

Austin and Harris County, which includes Houston, made similar decisions to temporarily close parks.

Walking, jogging and biking have become welcome ways to get out of the house and stay active during lockdown. Officials recommend staying 6 feet away from others in public spaces, such as parks, but a new study suggests staying farther away to avoid passing through another person’s “slipstream.”

“When someone during a run breathes, sneezes or coughs, those particles stay behind in the air,” according to the study. “The person running behind you in the so-called slipstream goes through this cloud of droplets.”

Park closures will be displayed on digital messaging boards, and Dallas police, park rangers, parking enforcement officers and other officials will monitor parks during the weekend.


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