King County Parks took an extraordinary step this week to close all its parks in an attempt to further discourage people from crowding or gathering as we fight the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. And unless you are an essential worker or are accomplishing an essential task (like going to the grocery store or a doctor’s appointment), that means county-run trails are closed, too.
While Governor Jay Inslee did say that getting outside for exercise is still allowed so long as you practice social distancing, the County does not want to you do so on its trail network. This includes about half of the 300+ miles of regional trails in the county, including sections of the Burke-Gilman, Sammamish River, Interurban South, Green River, Cedar River, Eastrail and Snoqualmie Valley Trails to name a few. It does not include any trails within the Seattle city limits or trails operated by WSDOT (like most of the I-90 and 520 Trails). There are also sections of regional trails under the control of local municipalities (like the Cross-Kirkland Corridor stretch of the Eastrail) that are not affected.
So yes, it’s a little confusing. The average user probably has no idea when they’ve crossed from a municipally-managed trail segment to a County one (sometimes there will be a King county branded sign letting you know, but not always). But we’re in an emergency, so do your best to follow official public health guidance and forgive some sloppiness in the rules.
And regardless of who operates a trail, the spirit of the King County ban should be on your mind. We talked about this a bit in our post: Let’s talk about responsible biking during this pandemic. Even if a trail is open and the governor says its OK to bike for recreation, you have to avoid bunching or crowding. If that means exiting the trail, waiting or turning around, then that’s what you’ve got to do. Residential streets are your friend right now, since they are typically wide open. Some stretches of trail have plenty of space, but others get crowded. It would be great if folks had more space to spread out, but that’s no excuse for joining a crowd right now. Six feet of separation is a minimum.
Here’s the official trail use guidance from King County Parks:
If an individual is part of the essential workforce and needs to commute for work or needs to accomplish essential tasks by using the King County Parks regional trail network (i.e. grocery store, doctors appointment, etc.) they are allowed to do so. Individuals who use trails for these purposes should follow social distancing guidelines and our standard trail rules and etiquette.
Non-essential use of the RTS remains closed as part of the ongoing efforts to protect public health and curb transmission of COVID-19.