During the coronavirus pandemic, the outdoors has become a place of respite for many people—a place we can safely eat while indoor dining is closed, a place to exercise while gyms are closed, a way to meet a friend for a socially distant walk while having people over is a no-go.
Forget the outdoors for now. Even if you don't live immediately adjacent to one of the three wildfires now burning in Monterey County, you are probably experiencing poor air quality due to smoke. Officials advise against outdoor activity in unhealthy air conditions.
Air quality aside, a lot of public lands have been closed due to the fires. On Wednesday, Aug. 19, California State Parks announced full closures of Big Sur properties due to the Dolan Fire in Big Sur, as well as more than a dozen state parks elsewhere in the state.
Those closures include six parks in Santa Cruz County due to the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire, among them Big Basin Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains. State Parks officials report Big Basin, the oldest state park in California, sustained "extensive damage" from the fire on Tuesday.
In Monterey County, the following parks are fully closed: Andrew Molera State Park; Garrapata State Park; Limekiln State Park; Point Sur State Historic Park; Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park; Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park; Point Lobos State Natural Reserve; and John Little State Natural Reserve, where the Dolan Fire originated.
Also on Wednesday, the Central Coast division of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced the closure of Fort Ord National Monument, due to the nearby River Fire. The closure took effect at midnight Thursday morning.
"The River Fire is threatening the Ford Ord National Monument," according to a statement from BLM. The closure applies to all forms of recreation, and from all access points, including those from the western side of the monument that are further from the fire.
Besides protecting the public, these closures are meant to protect fire officials and other parks officials and allow them focus on fire suppression-related responsibilities.
Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District has closed its two largest parks, Garland Ranch and Palo Corona, because they are close to the Carmel Fire and "are socked in with smoke," Supervising Ranger Cane Camarillo says.
MPRPD closed Cachagua Community Park in March due to shelter-in-place orders, and intended to partially reopen this weekend, a plan that's now been called off due to the Carmel Fire. Cachagua Road is closed and the park is in the evacuation area, though Camarillo says what he hears and sees is that the park, which includes play structures and fields, is still OK.
Toro County Park has been closed since Monday, Aug. 17 because Cal Fire is using the park as an incident command center for the River Fire.