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City closes parking at popular parks

by Steven Felschundneff steven@claremont-courier.com

On Monday the City of Claremont elected to close the parking lots at several public parks and at the Evey Canyon trailhead for Claremont Hills Wilderness Park because of the large crowds that collected at these parks over the weekend.

“Due to the high number of people refusing to adhere to ‘social distancing’ at Thompson Creek Trail and at the soccer fields at La Puerta, along with people accessing the CLOSED CHWP via Evey Canyon, the city will be placing barricades to prevent parking at the entrance to the Thompson Creek parking lot off of Indian Hill and at La Puerta Sports Park,” according to a news release posted on the city’s official Facebook page.

“It was done to keep to keep congregation areas clear,” Public Information Officer Bevin Handel said.  “That is the problem, they are meeting up to walk, with groups of ten people so [the city is] trying to minimize that.” She noted that other cities are closing some public spaces as well.

At about 9 a.m. on Sunday there were dozens of people using the trail, and while many were walking or running alone, there were also several groups of four or more. When these groups passed each other it was difficult to maintain the six-foot recommended distance.

Senior park ranger Jamie Torres was monitoring the hikers on Thompson Creek Trail and reminding visitors to keep a safe distance.

“You all practice that safe distancing,” he called out to a group of young men who grinned and waved. “Okay, have a good day,” he added.

He and the other rangers were talking to people to help them understand the importance of the following the rules ordered by the state’s governor. However, by Monday it was clear that additional action was required.

“Police personnel and park rangers will be enforcing the closure of the Wilderness Park, Thompson Creek Trail and Padua Park parking lots. Basketball hoops and volleyball nets have been removed from city parks after reports of games being played with large groups of participants. Park playgrounds and restrooms are closed. The restroom adjacent to City Hall remains open,” the city’s statement reads.

Thompson Creek Trail itself remains open but the most popular entry points have been closed in an effort to eliminate places where people tend to congregate. 

The parking lot adjacent to the intersection of Mills Avenue and Mt. Baldy Road, which is a frequent launch spot for both the Wilderness Park and Thompson Creek Trail, had only one parked car at noon Monday. Other vehicles that approached the lot made u-turns when the driver’s spotted the barricades. One couple who approached the trailhead on foot stopped to read the “closed” sign but decided to walk on the trail anyway.

“The City has made this decision to ensure the intent of the ‘Safer at Home’ order to minimize person-to-person contact and slow the spread of COVID-19,” according to the statement.

The COURIER will provide more updates as the situation changes.

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