SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Unlike other communities in Southern California, Santa Barbara is keeping its parks open--with a few exceptions.
All city playgrounds are closed and the Skater's Point skatepark near Stearn's Wharf was fenced off on Monday after a crowded weekend. Recreation centers and outdoor exercise equipment are also off-limits to slow the spread of COVID-19.
But otherwise, most parks remain open. The city's Parks and Recreation Department says most people are following social distancing.
"We’re finding, to a significant extent, that people are following social distancing," Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation director Jill Zachary said. "At the same time, there are situations that we’ve encountered and we’ve had to take actions."
The skatepark intervention was one example. Zachary did not rule out the city making more changes in the future, saying it is re-evaluating its plan "every day" to make sure it stays consistent with guidance from County Public Health officals.
Zachary said the city is hopeful that large crowds do not congregate and that people continue to listen to health orders.
"We’ve got open spaces that people can really use responsibly during this health emergency," Zachary said. "To fence everything off would be a major undertaking, and not something that we would ever take lightly, and not even sure it would be feasible."
Local schools are trying to protect their neighbors as well, making sure their basketball courts and playgrounds stay empty.
"We encourage our families... spend plenty of time outside," Montecito Union School District superintendent Anthony Ranii said. "But that’s very different than utilizing the play equipment, where you’re touching things that are made of metal and plastic. And our hands are gonna be the hotbeds for this disease."
Benches and picnic tables in city parks are also a concern, as they are not sanitized, yet people continue to use them. Zachary says there's no guarantee going to the park will be safe.
She also says people should remain close to home, even when going outside.
"People do need an outdoor outlet," she said. "The governor has encouraged people to go out and walk with their families. I think we will be increasingly encouraging people to walk in their neighborhoods, rather than travel distances to go hiking or to participate in recreation—kind of change the way they do recreation, to keep them closer to home."