By Colleen Sparks
Residents are flocking to local parks and trails to exercise and relieve stress while schools, gyms and many other businesses are closed because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
While Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department indoor recreation centers are temporarily closed, the city’s outdoor recreation facilities are open for normal hours of operation, including parks, trails and golf courses. Parks officials are instructing people to maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet from others while outdoors, in compliance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s guidance. They also are telling hikers and bikers to share trails and warn other users when they are around and as they pass them.
Sean Hannafin often hikes in North Central Phoenix and other trails, sometimes with his twin sons, Jack and Reilly, 14 years old.
“We’re really more mindful of the trails,” Hannafin said. “I usually go early in the morning, before work. Six feet would be a minimum. The best thing is to treat it like people are smoking around you, really being cognizant of where you are on the trail.”
He said he sees fewer people with headphones on while they hike and most people are either hiking in small groups or alone since the COVID-19 outbreak. Hannafin brings hand sanitizer and said he and his family members are “thoughtful” about what they touch. If a particular trail is too busy, he will go home or find another one to hike so he may maintain social distancing. His wife is a nurse and recommends safety measures for the family to take.
Hannafin, who is principal at David Crockett Elementary School, said he likes Dreamy Draw Recreation Area because the trails are “pretty wide open.”
Gregg Bach, public information officer for the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department, said restrooms, playgrounds, picnic tables, ramadas, fitness equipment, as well as basketball and volleyball courts are closed temporarily because of COVID-19. While hiking trails are open, a limited access policy is in place at many of the busiest trailheads including Camelback Mountain’s Echo Canyon Trailhead.
Bach said people should not use the parks or trails if they are showing any signs of illness and they should warn other users of their presence as they are passing and step aside to allow others to pass.
“Our department is encouraging people to get outside, get exercise and practice responsible social or physical distancing while doing so,” he said.
Libby Goff, secretary for the Phoenix Mountains Preservation Council, is an avid hiker but has been choosing less popular trails to visit because of the Coronavirus.
“We’re lucky that there are so many different trail access points and we have so many miles of trails in our hiking area in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve,” Goff said. “I have gone on lesser used trails but I have noticed even there, an uptick in the number of people that have been out. I have been able to keep a social distance from hikers or passed them. People have been very polite about that.”
For the latest updates on park rules and closures, visit phoenix.gov/parks.