Face mask requirements in city parks vary

A view of Bucklin Park on Friday in El Centro. Signage was recently placed at the park to remind park goers that a face covering is required while being in the park. PHOTO VINCENT OSUNA

BRAWLEY — The rules for face coverings at city parks currently vary from city to city.

For instance, in El Centro use of a face covering is strictly required at any of its parks.

The cities of Imperial and Brawley have ruled park goers only need to wear a covering if physical distancing of 6 feet cannot be maintained.

While county parks remain closed, parks in El Centro, Imperial and Brawley are still allowing public access at their parks for walking, running, biking and individual workouts.

Exercise and playground equipment those parks, however, remain closed in precaution against the spread of COVID-19.

The city of El Centro announced on Tuesday that use of face coverings within Bucklin Park or any other city park/retention basins will now be mandatory. Signage has been posted accordingly

A day or two after the city of Brawley’s regular City Council meeting on Tuesday, signage was also posted Cattle Call Park. It reads, “Practice courtesy by using a face covering when social distancing cannot be maintained.”

In a July 9 Facebook post regarding what’s opened and closed in the city’s parks, the city of Imperial stated, “Wear a mask if you cannot keep physical distancing from others.”

During their respective meetings on July 7, the Brawley and El Centro city councils each had a lengthy discussion about park policies.

During the El Centro meeting, City Mayor Efrain Silva said he felt community parks should be open, but areas in the parks that invite gatherings, such as playgrounds and ramadas, should be blocked off.

Furthermore, the mayor expressed his opinion that masks should be mandated at the parks — regardless of whether one is with their immediate family members or social distancing from other park goers.

“You want to walk the park, you have to have a mask,” Silva said.

Mayor Pro Tem Jason Jackson added that he supported Silva’s idea of requiring masks at parks.

“It’s so important that if you’re going to possibly have contact,” Jackson said. “And I think that’s the thing is, some people think, ‘Well, I’m not going to wear a mask because I don’t think I’m going to run into anybody,’ but then you do.”

Whether city parks should be open at all was also discussed during these July 7 meetings, with both councils expressing interest in keeping them open despite the county parks’ closure.

The amended health officer order issued by the Imperial County Public Health Department on July 1 said county parks will be closed to public access, and it “strongly encouraged” city parks to do the same.

 “If that is up to us, I think we need to have a discussion about that,” Brawley Councilman Luke Hamby said during the July 7 meeting. “If it’s not up to us, we need to be able to say why it’s not, when people ask us, and have a good answer for that, because, otherwise, it defies logic and science.”

The comparison between people being inside Brawley Walmart to people being at Cattle Call Park was made.

The council members were incredulous over the rationale that allows the former to remain open with significant foot traffic, while the outdoor walking path at the park was closed at the time.

“There is zero data to show that anybody is contracting an infection from walking around the park, period,” Councilman Donald Wharton said.

Both El Centro and Brawley currently advise their respective park patrons to “walk, bike or run in a counter-clockwise direction.”

During the July 7 meeting, Silva explained that one-way pathways should be established at the parks, so park users can avoid crossing paths with each other.

“But you’ll have that one person that will walk the other way,” Mayor Pro Tem Jackson added. “And then all of a sudden you’re bumping into somebody, so the mask idea, I think, is a good idea.”

Brawley’s recently put-up park signage advises park goers to “keep it moving.”

City Manager Rosanna Moore explained at the meeting that discussions have progressed quite a bit between the county, Imperial County Public Health Department and other local agencies about launching a “Keep It Moving” campaign.

“This will be kind of a way of messaging safe activity that can occur during park closures,” Moore said.

While this campaign is still in development, Moore said she would be working with the city’s parks and recreation personnel to update some signage for the parks.

“The notion of solo walking, or running or active movement in a city park is something that will be allowed and promoted,” she said.

As Moore was talking about updating the signage, Councilman George Nava injected that he felt the city should promote a “keep it moving” slogan within the parks sooner than the launch of the county’s campaign — hence, the city’s most recent signage.

“If people are going to be out there, let’s just promote that idea sooner rather than later,” Nava said. “Let’s just tell the public now. Emphasis the fact that, ‘Hey, keep your distance; keep walking; don’t gather.’ I think the sooner we implement it — the sooner we say it — it just makes it easier for everyone.”

Staff Writer Vincent Osuna can be reached at vosuna@ivpressonline.com or 760-337-3442.

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