Since the beginning of quarantine, the idea of “cabin-fever” has spiked in relativity — understandably so, as the people across America abide by the stay at home orders and coop inside their houses. Entire ways of life have changed since the beginning of quarantine.
However, this distance from the outside word has sparked a taste in many to go back to their normal, outdoor lives. For many, the park of choice to reconnect with the outdoors seems to be our very own Lake Chabot Regional Park. Visitation to Lake Chabot has gone to about four times the usual amount of people usually present at the park, pre-COVID-19, according to a park official.
“One of the things that really changed was that when COVID hit and shelter in place started, one of the things that stayed open was parks,” explained Captain Love, head of the Police Department for East Bay parks. “The staff is remarkably resilient. Everyone’s done a tremendous job. We’ve had to do things we didn’t know how to deal with because of COVID.”
Park staff have expressed extreme gratitude for the peak in interest for local (and not so local parks). It has been wonderful seeing people reconnecting with nature and spending time away from the many screens and devices that occupy so much of our time. However, many concerns have been raised since this surge in activity in the parks.
Lake Chabot staff consistently stress the importance of the revised rules to ensure everyone’s safety in the park; they have found that many visitors do not abide by these rules and disrespect the environment that the rangers have worked so hard to perfect. People not wearing masks and littering over the park have had quite an emotional toll on the staff, who just want a clean space where people can enjoy the outdoors.
“A lot of people were not respecting the decisions made by the district,” Ranger Sandra Röchester expressed, with the concern of the growing number of visitors. “This is a public health issue — please use a mask. Let’s all do our part to help.”
Röchester also mentions that the nice weather during California’s winter makes being in the outdoors a lot more appealing than usual, which also explains the sudden traffic.
Röchester is just one of the many people within the Lake Chabot staff that work themselves to the bone to ensure that the park is a clean, safe place for people to truly feel in the element of nature.
Dave Mason, public information officer for the park district, expressed the same concerns and praises of the number of attendees during these times. “There has been a problem with increased trash and illegal parking,” said Mason in regards to problems concerning visitors. “We have full service police and fire departments on schedule to assist the public, and ordinances are well enforced for the safety of others. Our facilities and group picnics are not open to the public, but we’ve recently opened up camping again.”
Lake Chabot has not been the only park to experience such an increase in visitation; others such as Carlos Bee Park have also had to deal and manage their own influx of people. The crowds have created extra work for staff, but they do not mind, Love said.
“Your friends and family are worth it,” expressed Love. “It’s why we come to work every day.”
It bears repeating that when visiting your local (or not so local) parks, always be mindful of the garbage you produce, and be careful when exploring trails. The non emergency phone line can always be contacted at 510-881-1833. Let’s all be sure to pick up after ourselves and look after each other, especially in times like these! (And to give the Lake Chabot staff a well-deserved thanks!)