Santa Rosa, CA – March 23, 2020 at 6:45 PM – Sonoma County’s interim public health officer today ordered the closure of all parks in Sonoma County to further enforce the county’s shelter-in-place directive during the COVID-19 emergency. The closure goes into effect March 24 and remains in effect until further notice.
The closure applies to all agencies and jurisdictions operating parks and open spaces in Sonoma County, including city, county, state and federal parklands and recreational lands operated by private groups and nonprofits.
The order comes after parks, trails and beaches countywide were crowded with visitors during the initial days of the shelter-in-place orders issued by the county and state. Parking areas and surrounding roads were filled with cars, and visitors gathered on trails, in parking areas, at picnic sites and in other common areas, despite orders to practice social distancing outdoors.
“Closing parks is a difficult decision, but it is the right decision at this time,” said Dr. Sundari Mase, the county’s interim health officer. “Allowing crowded conditions in parks is not in our best interest during this health crisis. The best action we can take is to stay close to home and limit our outdoor time to our yards and neighborhoods.”
Sonoma County’s order to shelter-in-place was issued March 17, and Dr. Mase’s action today is an additional order to close all parks within the county. Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order March 18. All directives urge the public to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus by staying home except for essential activities. However, both orders allow for limited outdoor exercise.
“We know that spending time outside is essential to our health, but too many people using the parks makes social distancing difficult,” said Susan Gorin, Chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. “We all need to follow the health order and stick close to home for our outdoor activities. If we change our actions now, we slow the spread of this disease sooner than later.”
Instead of traveling to parks, health authorities suggest residents pursue outdoor activities like neighborhood walks and bike rides, playing or exercising in front or back yards and gardening.
The county’s Regional Park entrances will be closed beginning March 24, and the public is urged to comply with the closures. If visitors continue to park on surrounding streets and walk into parks, rangers will work with local law enforcement to restrict off-site parking.
“We hoped the parks could be an essential resource, but we can’t support the type of use we saw during the first days of the shelter-in-place order,” said Bert Whitaker, director of Sonoma County Regional Parks. “We thank everyone who tried to use the parks safely, but we need to do more to protect our community. Let’s get through this emergency knowing we’ve done all we can to keep each other well.”
Sonoma County’s shelter-in-place order limits activity, travel and business functions to only the most essential needs. Answers to frequently asked questions about the order and the county’s emergency response can be found at SoCoEmergency.org.
Social distancing is the practice of reducing close contact between people to slow the spread of infections or diseases. Authorities recommend keeping a 6-foot distance from people who are not members of your household. For a list of what is safe to do to social distance, what to do with caution, and what to avoid, visit:
For additional questions, call 2-1-1 to reach the 2-1-1 Sonoma Information & Resource Hotline.