Contra Costa County, California – Because the continuing coronavirus pandemic has limited many forms of recreation, the regional parks and outdoor venues in general have seen a substantial increase in visitors.
As fall turns to winter, with its colder and damper climate, here are some tips to help make your park visits safer and more enjoyable.
Because of pandemic concerns, it’s advised to go out only with your immediate family and/or household – not in large groups. Take along masks to wear when narrow trails make social distancing difficult. Visit parks that are close to home.
If you go alone, tell someone responsible where you are going and when you expect to return. Upon return, check back in with that person.
Don’t forget your map
Take along a trail map. Maps of the regional parks are available at the district website, ebparks.org. They are also available in boxes at trailhead information panels, though the park rangers can’t always keep up with restocking needs. It’s also a good idea to check the district website before leaving, to make sure there are no temporary restrictions at your planned destination.
Dress in layers and bring raingear. Weather conditions can change abruptly this time of year. It’s easier to remove extra parkas and sweaters when it gets warm than to be without what you need if it gets cold and wet.
Bicycles are permitted on designated trails only. You can ride on dirt fire roads and paved inter-park trails such as the Iron Horse. Some narrower trails are open to bicycles, too, though not the narrowest ones, which are reserved for hikers and horses. Check the park map to be sure. Don’t forget your helmet.
Horses take precedence over bicycles and pedestrians. Bicycles should yield to pedestrians. However it’s always nice to exercise common courtesy when circumstances call for it, regardless of who has the right of way.
Please stay on the official trails. Shortcuts and “social trails” are dangerous and damage natural resources.
Water and snacks
Don’t forget water and a snack. Because of the coronavirus, many park district drinking fountains have been turned off. And a snack can give you an energy boost.
Bring water and a snack for your dog, too. And be familiar with dog rules. In general, dogs can be off-leash in the backcountry as long as they are under their owner’s control. This means Fido will come when called. If your dog starts chasing cows or wildlife, or has uninvited interaction with other park visitors, it’s time to put on the leash. Dogs are supposed to be leashed on all the district’s paved trails. And remember to clean up after your dog – “bag it and bin it.”
You can also help by packing out what you bring in: candy wrappers, plastic water bottles, etc.
Speaking of trash, let’s have a round of applause for John Green of Danville. You may have seen him on the Iron Horse Trail. He’s hard to miss 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 has logged 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 about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.