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Coronavirus in Florida: Will Tampa Bay leaders close parks next?

The latest rundown of how local governments are answering that question
A picture of Lake Conservation Park, which was closed by Hillsborough County in response to the Coronavirus outbreak in March 2020. [JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK | Times]

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Restaurants, beaches, bars, movie theaters and gyms all over the are state closing as officials scramble to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Many in Tampa Bay are left to wonder: Are parks closing next?

Here’s a rundown of how local governments are answering that question as of Monday morning.

State parks: All parks closed

The state on Sunday night updated its list of park closures to include every state park.

The state is constantly updating its list of closures. Check out https://twitter.com/FLStateParks or https://www.floridastateparks.org/StormUpdates for more information.

Pinellas County: Parks are open, with caveats.

The county on Thursday moved to close public beaches until April 6. That means the beach access portions of Sand Key Park, Fred Howard Park and Fort De Soto Park are closed.

However, at Fort De Soto, the county said on its website it will honor existing camping reservations. (New reservations have been suspended.) County boat ramps are still open.

Other county parks remain open — with the caveat that attendees are encouraged to practice social distancing. The county cancelled all existing park shelter reservations to re-enforce guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: No large groups, and don’t move within six feet of another person.

“Outdoor exercise per CDC guidelines is good using caution,” administrator Barry Burton said.

Hillsborough County: Many parks are closed.

Hillsborough announced in a Friday evening news release that it would close its conservation parks, including the Upper Tampa Bay Trail and Town 'N Country Greenway.

Nature preserves in the county will stay open except for the Apollo Beach Nature Preserve. Vehicles won’t be allowed in the Camp Bayou Nature Preserve, but it will stay open.

All recreation centers at county parks are closed. FishHawk Skate Park is closed. The Lithia Springs Conservation Park swimming area is closed. So are the pickleball courts at Northlakes Park.

However, the restrooms at the Brandon, Carrollwood Village, Gardenville, Mango, Northdale, Providence Skate Park, and Ruskin neighborhood parks will all remain open, the release said.

Picnic shelters at neighborhood parks will stay open, but officials plan to keep an eye on them to make sure parties no bigger than 10 are congregating in a shelter at one time, the county said.

Stand-alone county boat ramps will also stay open.

And the county’s parks and recreation department plans to accept online summer camp registration through March 31 for members of the department’s after school program. Everyone else can sign up starting April 6.

Hernando County: Some parks are closed

The Alfred McKethan/Pine Island Park at at 10840 Pine Island Drive in Spring Hill is closed.

The Rogers Park beach area at 7244 Shoal Line Boulevard is closed.

The Rogers Park boat ramp will stay open.

“We have not closed any other parks at this time to allow for the public, using social distancing in our open-area park sites, to still enjoy the outdoors and get physical exercise during this time as long as we can,” county spokeswoman Kasey Kupcik said.

“Additionally, all youth and adult sports leagues have been cancelled until further notice as well as the suspension of facility rentals in order to discourage any gatherings of more than 10 people.”

Pasco County: Most parks remain open

According to the county website, “all events, activities, youth and adult sports leagues, special event reservations, pavilion rentals, camp/RV grounds, cabin rentals, field reservations and any other reservations at Pasco County Parks have been canceled until May 1, 2020.”

The beaches at Anclote River Park, the Robert J. Strickland Memorial Park, the Robert K. Rees Memorial Park and the Sunwest Park are all closed.

All county recreation centers are closed.

However, all other parks will function as normal “unless otherwise noted,” the website said. The boat ramps at Anclote River and Strickland are open.

City of St. Petersburg: Parks are largely open.

Ben Kirby, a spokesman for Mayor Rick Kriseman, on whether Kriseman is considering closing city parks: “With the important caveat that things are fluid, are moving quickly, and can change as the mayor continually consults with his Emergency Operations team and watches closely what other communities are doing, I would say not right now. It’s worth noting that even in some places that have stay at home orders, parks remain open. That said, this is a good opportunity to again encourage people to use CDC guidelines for social distancing in public spaces like parks.”

Kirby noted Saturday that Kriseman would prefer a uniform statewide approach to the park question.

For more on St. Petersburg closures, check out https://www.stpete.org/.

City of Tampa: Parks are largely open

Tampa spokeswoman Ashley Bauman Saturday, on whether Mayor Jane Castor is considering closing city parks: “Not as of now.”

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