Fort Worth Closes Sport Courts, Dallas Warns of Park Closures if Social Distancing Guidance is Ignored

NBC 5 News

Several area school districts and parks departments are taking greater steps to encourage social/physical distancing by locking public parks and removing equipment.

The effort is to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, the viral infection responsible for sickening more than 1,000 in North Texas and killing another 17. As of Monday afternoon, the virus has infected more than 738,000 worldwide and more than 140,000 in the United States. In the U.S. alone, nearly 2,500 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19.

Despite shelter-at-home orders and guidelines to maintain a distance of six feet from other people, Dallas-area parks were packed over the weekend. NBC 5 saw hundreds of people using public parks and trails, many of whom did not keep 6 feet of distance between themselves in others.

The trails, of course, were open while dog parks, sport courts and playrounds were closed.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he didn't want to have to shut down the county's parks entirely, but that, "public health comes before ammenities. Please help us help you by observing social distancing."

So far there is no order to close the trails and open turf areas in the city or county, but NBC 5 did see barricades being dropped off near several park entrances -- apparently being put into position in case the order to close is given.

The Dallas ISD, meanwhile, said they were joining the city in closing all playgrounds to the public.

In Fort Worth, after a busy weekend where social distancing guidelines were ignored, parks department employees removed the rims from basketball goals and nets from volleyball courts at city parks on Monday. All basketball and volleyball courts in the city are now closed until further notice.

In Arlington, parks, skate parks, dog parks, hike and bike trails, municipal golf courses and Lake Arlington remain open. Public access to playground equipment and sports courts is being evaluated continuously, and the disregard of Social Distancing may result in the closure of specific park amenities.

"At this time, park operations staff is sanitizing all playgrounds twice daily. Park visitors are encouraged to supplement these cleaning cycles by using personal sanitizing wipes to clean playground surfaces after use. Park restrooms and drinking fountains remain closed," Arlington Parks said.

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Rims were removed from Fort Worth parks Monday, March 30, 2020, to encourage physical distancing while battling the COVID-19 outbreak.

In Allen, the school district said they'd be closing a lockable athletic fields, courts and play areas starting at 11 p.m. Monday.

"In an effort to reduce the spread of infection from the Coronavirus, a decision was made to close the play areas and athletic spaces. The public is encouraged not to congregate in large groups at open play fields on Allen ISD or City of Allen property. Locked facilities are completely closed to the public," the city said. “With the change to warmer weather and school closings, we were finding more and more people using tennis courts and playgrounds for example,” said Daniel Pitcock, assistant superintendent for operations. “We are unable to properly sanitize these large outdoor spaces and feel that is in best interest of public safety to close them for now.”

Most North Texas counties are under some kind of stay-at-home order, though access to parks and recreation facilities can vary from city to city. Check your local parks and rec department for the latest guidance.

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