Not Quite All Closed

City closes playgrounds, skate parks and basketball courts but trails will remain open for now

Santa Fe closed all playgrounds, skate parks and basketball courts Tuesday, but Parks and Recreation Director John Muńoz tells SFR trails and parks, including tennis courts, will remain open unless it "feels like the thing to do" to increase safety against COVID-19.

"As long as people keep their distance, six feet [from each other], indications are that's probably safe," Muñoz says. However, the city will continue to evaluate the open spaces and whether Santa Feans are abiding the state standards for groups, which is currently set at no more than five people together at a time.

"It's therapeutic, it's healthy," he says, noting the areas here "get used more than just about any open space in the US."

Recent weekends, and even some weekdays, saw crowded trails and parking lots full of cars at regional trailheads.

Getting outdoors may seem harmless but essential workers such as search-and-rescue volunteers could contract the virus from helping lost or injured hikers, according to Jack Fulton, president of Santa Fe Search and Rescue, a team of volunteers.

"NM Search and Rescue Teams are comprised of volunteers who routinely put themselves at risk to help people in need," Fulton said in a statement. "These brave volunteers now face an insidious and non-apparent risk that is extremely difficult to mitigate—the COVID-19 virus. Whether it's the person requiring rescue, or the rescuers coming to help, either can become infected without knowing it or presenting any symptoms. One rescue could potentially expose numerous Search and Rescue volunteer Team Members to the virus, they in turn taking it home to their families."

Santa Fe County open spaces will stay open for the foreseeable future although there are now posted red signs at all of their locations with the "COVID-19 requirements," according to spokeswoman Carmelina Hart.

Other areas around the state have restricted access to residents.

After the Santa Fe National Forest saw jampacked trails and parking lots last weekend, the US Forest Service sent out another press release Tuesday reminding New Mexicans that all developed campgrounds and toilets are completely closed while some of the picnic and day use areas are closed. Aspen Basin, Big Tesuque, Black Canyon and Borrego Mesa campgrounds are among them, as well as many sites in the Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District.

USDA Law Enforcement & Investigations will do their "normal" patrols to make sure people are complying and there is a penalty for breaking the new restrictions: a misdemeanor and fine up to $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations and/or six months behind bars.

"Additional closures or restrictions may become necessary if we determine that visitors are not following the COVID-19 guidelines, or if the forest experiences unmanageable trash, human waste or other resource issues," Santa Fe National Forest spokeswoman Julie Anne Overton tells SFR.

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