Page will not reopen parks any time soon

The+grade+of+the+Cliff+Cave+trail+in+Oakville%2C+seen+here+at+its+May+2018+opening%2C+is+no+more+than+5+percent%2C+which+allows+those+with+mobility+issues+to+use+it.+

Photo by Gloria Lloyd

The grade of the Cliff Cave trail in Oakville, seen here at its May 2018 opening, is no more than 5 percent, which allows those with mobility issues to use it.

By Gloria Lloyd, News Editor

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page will not reopen parks any time soon, despite a push to reopen parks from the three Republican members of the County Council.

Page closed the parks April 3, after the state closed some of its parks statewide and one in the St. Louis area. When that happened, the county saw a surge of traffic into its parks, as documented by Google traffic data.

“We are focused on saving lives and social distancing is our best prevention,” Page said in a statement. “We shifted our park rangers to our first responder team to deal with this crisis but suspended that temporarily when three rangers tested positive. I hope to be able to reopen the parks as soon as it is safe to do so. Our parks director has been working on a plan to implement when the time is right.”

Closing parks was not an easy choice, the county executive said at his daily briefing Wednesday.

Closing parks is very, very frustrating to me, but we just could not manage the overwhelming crowds,” Page said. “When the state closed their parks, we saw a second surge into our county parks. Our Google analytics showed that our parks were becoming extraordinarily crowded… We also have park rangers who are recovering from COVID-19… We’re all extraordinarily frustrated by every aspect of the social distancing — including parks.”

Any decision to reopen parks would go hand-in-hand with a broader decision by Page to lift his stay-at-home order in effect indefinitely, but at least through mid-May.

After a conference call with dozens of St. Louis County mayors last week, Page said in his daily briefing Monday morning that “planning will begin immediately to see how we can begin to loosen our social distancing restrictions. We are also looking to see what reopening our parks will look like, I know it’s very difficult at this time of year to not have access to our parks.”