CONTRA COSTA COUNTY—Because the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has limited many forms of recreation, regional parks and outdoor venues in general have seen a substantial increase in visitor numbers.
As fall turns into winter, with its colder and wetter weather, here are some tips to help make your visits to the park safer and more enjoyable.
Due to pandemic concerns, it is advisable to only go out with your immediate family and/or household, and not in large groups. Pack masks to wear when narrow trails make social distancing difficult. Visit parks near you.
If you are going alone, tell a responsible person where you are going and when you expect to return. When you return, come back with that person.
Don’t forget your card
Bring a trail map. Maps of regional parks are available on the district’s website, ebparks.org. They are also available in boxes at the information boards at the trailheads, although park rangers cannot always meet resupply needs. It’s also a good idea to check the district’s website before you go, to make sure there are no temporary restrictions at your intended destination.
Dress in layers and bring rain gear. Weather conditions can change suddenly at this time of year. It’s easier to take off extra parkas and sweaters when it’s hot than to go without what you need when it’s cold and wet.
Bicycles are permitted on designated trails only. You can ride dirt dirt roads and paved inter-park trails such as the Iron Horse. Some narrower trails are also open to bikes, but not the narrower ones, which are for hikers and horses only. Check the park map to be sure. Don’t forget your helmet.
Horses take precedence over bicycles and pedestrians. Bicycles must yield to pedestrians. However, it is always nice to show courtesy when circumstances require, regardless of who has the right of way.
Please stay on official trails. Shortcuts and “social paths” are dangerous and damage natural resources.
Water and snacks
Don’t forget water and a snack. Due to the coronavirus, many drinking fountains in the park district have been turned off. And a snack can give you an energy boost.
Also bring water and a snack for your dog. And be familiar with dog rules. In general, dogs can be off-leash in the backcountry as long as they are under the control of their owner. This means that Fido will come when called. If your dog starts chasing cows or wildlife, or has unsolicited interactions with other park visitors, it’s time to put him on a leash. Dogs are expected to be leashed on all paved trails in the district. And don’t forget to clean up after your dog – “bag it and throw it away”.
You can also help by packing what you bring: candy wrappers, plastic water bottles, etc.
Speaking of trash, let’s applaud Danville’s John Green. You may have seen it on the Iron Horse Trail. It’s hard to miss him with his bright yellow shirt marked “Trash-man” on the front and “Green, Please Keep Our Trails Clean” on the back. The 80-year-old estimates he’s hiked about 2,500 miles on the Iron Horse and other trails in the past 12 years picking up trash.
Ned MacKay writes a regular column on East Bay Regional Park District sights and activities. Email him at [email protected]