Governor looks for ways to cut crowds at beaches, parks

By Jeremy P. Jacobs | 03/24/2020 01:19 PM EDT

A man walks solo past the Malibu Pier yesterday after a weekend where crowds packed beaches and trails, leading California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to close parking lots at beaches and parks across the state.

A man walks solo past the Malibu Pier yesterday after a weekend where crowds packed beaches and trails, leading California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to close parking lots at beaches and parks across the state. Jim Ruymen/UPI/Newscom

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is implementing a "soft closure" of the state’s beaches and parks, shutting down parking lots after record turnout last weekend.

The Democrat said yesterday that he was responding to images on the news of crowds at California’s beaches, like Malibu, and hiking trails.

"Normally, that would lighten my heart," Newsom said at a press conference.

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Then, with a smile, he chastised visitors for failing to practice social distancing as the state takes measures to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.

"When you are out there and you can’t even find parking at a beach, it suggests you’re not going to practice social distancing," he said.

"To make it easier for you, we’re going to shut down all state parking lots."

Newsom has been among the most aggressive governors in the country in trying to slow the spread of the virus. The entire state is currently "sheltering in place," with only essential businesses allowed to continue operating.

Nevertheless, the number of positive cases continues to rise as anticipated. There are at least 1,700 positive cases in the state, and the virus has caused 27 deaths, according to California officials.

The "soft closure" means about 40 state parks and facilities — including natural reserves like Torrey Pines in San Diego and Armstrong Redwoods in Sonoma County — are closed to vehicle traffic, as are all campgrounds and indoor facilities. All events have been canceled.

But outdoor areas, including trails and beaches, remain open.

Over the weekend, many national parks also saw crowds and as a result began actively discouraging visitors. It is unclear, however, how many of the National Park Service’s 419 parks sites are closed (Greenwire, March 23).

Newsom said he understood why Californians wanted to get outdoors after the first week of the policy.

But he said park visitors must avoid crowds.

"I don’t want to close big, beautiful open spaces," he said, adding, "We can’t see what we saw over the weekend happen again."

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