Editor's note: This story was last updated on April 3
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered the closure of all amenities at public parks "that do not allow for recommended physical distancing or proper hygiene." The closure goes into effect starting at 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 4 and includes basketball courts, playgrounds, splash pads and public restrooms.
Tucson Mayor Regina Romero ordererd all non-essential businesses and services as identified by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to close beginning at 8 a.m. on Saturday, March 28 through at least April 17. Recreation locations and parks (except for those noted below) are not affected by this order. Find the full list of essential services here. The mayor also issued an advisory that Tucsonans stay home "except as may be needed to address essential needs,'' like getting food and prescriptions, fresh air and going to work if employed in an essential function.
We know that this is one of the best times of year in Tucson to take advantage of nice weather, spring colors and clear skies. And being cooped up inside all day is no fun.
Plus, there's all sorts of physical, mental and emotional benefits of spending some time outside, things we could all use right now.
But it sounds like lots of us have the same ideas when it comes to exploring nature — leading popular outdoor places to close or change their operations due to an increase in visitors.
Remember social distancing and health guidelines still apply outdoors
The Pima County Health Department recommends the following for all situations to keep yourself and others healthy:
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Keep at least 6-8' of space from other people
Tucson Parks and Recreation has temporarily closed all playgrounds and other park amenities and equipment through April 30. Golf courses, disc golf courses, tennis courts, dog parks, skate parks and rinks, urban fishing areas, open space, trails, walking paths, and some park restroom facilities will continue to remain open for people to use while adhering to social distancing guidelines. These are the suggestions:
- Prepare for limited access to public restrooms or water fountains.
- While on paths, warn other users of your presence as you pass and step aside to let others pass.
- Follow CDC guidance on the recommended size of social gatherings including outdoor picnicking, pick-up sports and other group hangouts, and maintain proper physical distance at all times. At this time the recommendation is to limit group size to 10 people.
- Observe CDC’s minimum recommended social distancing of 6 feet from other individuals at all times. If this is not possible, users should find an alternate location or depart that space.
- Consult local and state ordinances and guidelines for the most up-to-date recommendations on park and path use.
- Refrain from touching playground equipment
- Avoid activities that share equipment or involve touching.
Be aware of changes to normal operations and recommendations
Before you head out to a public outdoor space like a city/county park, national park, national forest or other popular destinations check out their websites or social media for the latest updates about any changes to their hours, services or crowds. Some recent announcements include:
- Tucson Parks and Recreation has temporarily closed all city park playgrounds and other equipment to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in the community.
- National forests in Arizona and three other states are closed until at least June 30 because of the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Forest Service Southwestern Region officials said.
- Tumamoc Hill is now closed to the public and will remain closed until further notice.
- Saguaro National Park shared yesterday that "trails remain open, however crowding over the weekend was concerning." The park has now closed its restrooms and comfort stations (vault toilets), so there is no place to wash your hands or use a toilet in both the east and west districts. Also closed: visitor centers, fee collections and all of its public programming and events until further notice. Trash pickup is limited so be prepared to "leave no trace" and take your trash with you when you leave. On its Facebook page the park shared that some areas were very crowded over the weekend and advised visitors only to park in designated parking spots at trailheads and not to park along roadways or other areas that destroy vegetation. The park advises finding a less crowded part of the park if a lot is full. The park said it is busiest between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Last week Sabino Canyon closed its visitor center, the lower parking lot, and the Cactus Picnic Area Group Site. It also suspended the Sabino Canyon Crawler shuttle service.
- Some parts of The Loop were pretty busy this weekend and in general the portion starting at Rillito River Park is usually the most heavily trafficked says Pima County. You might have better luck with less traffic if you get on at Santa Cruz River Park, Harrison Greenway and Julian Wash Greenway. But if you see lots of cars in the parking lot or lots of cyclists and pedestrians at any starting point, it's best to find another place to access The Loop, after all there's more than 100 miles to explore.
Be safe and respectful of your surroundings
You probably want to avoid an unnecessary trip to the doctor or hospital right now, so it's not the best time to try a new trail or activity that's outside your skill level to avoid any injuries.
We're also seeing lots of rattlesnake photos taken in public areas, which means just like you, these creatures are emerging from their dens to soak up some sun. Be extra alert when you're out and about so you don't accidentally step on one on your hikes or walks. Find more tips for sss-surviving rattlesnake season here.
We've touched on these above but they bear repeating about being respectful of the spaces we're all sharing:
- Pick up your trash
- If a parking lot is full somewhere, find another place to explore
- Keep your distance from other people
Explore your own neighborhood
You can still get some sun and fresh air without having to worry about crowds.
• Find a walking path or explore a different route in your neighborhood. See if you can find any of this flora and fauna on your walk.
We are so thankful it's spring in Tucson. Because, global pandemic or not, the birds are still singing, and the wildflowers are still blooming.
• Get your neighbors to create sidewalk chalk masterpieces on their walkways for something new to see.
• Roll down your windows and go for a nice scenic drive or to see some public art. If you find a lookout spot you want to enjoy, remember to keep your distance from other people who are already there or find a different place to take a break.