Austin, San Marcos to reopen parks, amenities, rec facilities

Two of the largest cities in Central Texas plan to reopen many of their parks and recreational facilities as health officials continue to see signs that coronavirus cases might be waning.

Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department on Friday said more park amenities would be made available and some programs would restart as early as Saturday. In San Marcos, city officials announced that parks would reopen starting Wednesday.

The Parks Department said the decision to reopen Austin’s park amenities was made in consultation with Austin Public Health and city leaders. As of Friday, Austin-Travis County’s weekly average number of new hospital admissions for the coronavirus has stayed below 20 since late August, down from a peak of 75 on July 8.

These locations and facilities will be available for public use Saturday:

‒ Barton Creek spillway, aka “Barking Springs.”

‒ Disc golf courses.

‒ Neighborhood tennis courts.

‒ Outdoor adult exercise equipment.

‒ Campsites at Emma Long Metropolitan Park.

The nonprofit operators Sunshine Camp and Girl Scout Cabin will be allowed to reopen with reduced capacity and by following coronavirus pandemic protocols, such as social distancing and stricter cleaning practices.

Austin’s Parks Department also will allow permitted outdoor fitness instruction and city-approved volunteer group activities involving 10 or fewer people, such as cleanups and plantings.

Officials warned that if coronavirus conditions deteriorate, the Parks Department could close amenities and facilities again.

In Hays County, San Marcos city officials plan to reopen all public facilities, riverfront parks, neighborhood park playgrounds, athletic complexes, and tennis and basketball courts Wednesday, starting at 8 a.m. But Children’s Park Playscape won’t reopen until Sept. 18 because of previously scheduled tree work, officials said.

Capes Park, Thompson’s Island and Rio Vista pool will remain closed.

“Over the past few weeks, our area has experienced a steady decline in active cases and a sustained low number of new cases with fewer hospitalizations, which are the indicators we tracked and based our opening decisions upon throughout this pandemic,” City Manager Bert Lumbreras said Friday in a statement.

Signs at facilities and parks will ask visitors to follow guidelines from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including wearing a mask and maintaining at least 6 feet of distance from strangers. Anyone experiencing coronavirus-related symptoms should not go to a public area, officials said.

Park restrooms in City Park, Children’s Park and William & Eleanor Crook Park will be open until 8 p.m. and will be cleaned twice daily.

Chain-link fencing will remain in City Park and Rio Vista Park to help with social distancing and prevent gathering by limiting access to park amenities such as picnic tables and pavilions.

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