This weekend I was out much. I think many people were. We’re all trying to find things to do that entail little or no contact with other people, and on a weekend as lovely as this past one, that means parks. I was in a city park, a county park, and a state park in the past few days. They were different experiences.
Forest Park was very crowded Sunday morning, hundreds of people walking, running, and walking dogs. For the most part, people were keeping respectful distances. They waited until you finished crossing a foot bridge before starting across. They walked in the street or crossed to the other side to avoid passing each other. When we did these things, we often waved and offered polite, resigned smiles to one another.
But some people apparently did not get the message. I saw groups of people sitting at tables, groups of people gathered on blankets on the grass. People continued to approach strangers, asking to pet their dogs. In response to this, St. Louis has now announced the closure of roads in Forest Park to discourage such congregating.
Cliff Cave Park, a county park in heavily populated South County (Oakville, actually) was again very busy. I was hoping to have a bike ride on its 5-mile Mississippi Trail. But it was just too crowded to get on a bike. Moreover, the trail, which does after all lie along a flood plain of the Mississippi River, was still inundated from recent rains.
And again, one saw signs of people who are not heeding warnings against groups congregating. Picnics of a dozen or more people, groups occupying several tables in the big pavilion. I haven’t heard if St. Louis County plans to close park access, but it may have to.
Finally, I visited Hawn State Park, about an hour’s drive south of St. Louis. This is a lovely, natural park with forests of short-leaved pines and the oddly-named Pickle Creek meandering through it. It was blissfully unoccupied by other people. I saw a only a handful of people, and never came within more than a hundred yards of anyone else.
I understand that everyone is desperate for things to do, and when the weather is so lovely, there is the desire to get out to a park in sunshine. But that can’t mean getting together with a big group of family and friends, not yet, not by a long shot. We are all such social animals–but we need to go on making the sacrifice of not being around one another. It’s our only hope to shorten the time needed to diminish or defeat this virus.