Berkeley parks

Bay Area city closes open space parks over Labor Day weekend as heat wave looms

The town of Walnut Creek announced Wednesday that it will close its open-air parks Sept. 1-6 to deter people from hiking and other outdoor activities as a heat wave threatens the area of the Bay. KRON4 was the first to report the news.

Betsy Burkhart, communications manager for the town of Walnut Creek, told SFGATE the closure affects a number of popular recreation areas, including Acalanes Ridge, Borges Ranch, Howe Homestead Park, Lime Ridge, Sugarloaf Open Space and Shell Ridge. , covering over 1,400 acres and over 30 miles of trails.

“It’s unusual, but it’s also the first time we’ve had a sustained heat wave that’s expected to last this long,” Burkhart said by phone. “It’s been a while since I can remember the last one. Since this also overlaps with a holiday weekend, we know the typical places people might go could be different with extreme heat. … We want to try to make sure people aren’t hiking with 3,000 acres of 100-degree open space.

The decision was made on the recommendation of the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District. Steve Hill, a public information officer for the Fire Protection District, told SFGATE they have strongly urged the operators of most open spaces in the county to close to the public for two reasons – to protect residents of the health risks associated with exposure to suffocating high temperatures, in addition to the threat of “ultra high” fire danger.

“We have a slightly different situation in that we have large swaths of our county that will be hit hard by the heat, and coincidentally there just so happens to be a lot of open space and trails. A heat event like this is not particularly common in our area and our residents are not acclimatized to these temperatures. We are of the view that the anticipated conditions will unnecessarily expose the public and firefighters to undue risk in these open spaces,” Hill said.

“We often do tough rescues in parks on days when temperatures are more typically in the 80s and 90s, and those are tough enough for victims and firefighters alike. With several days over 100 degrees over the weekend, potential casualties, fires and EMS will face much greater risk during these rescues.

A cyclist passes a historic barn at Borges Ranch Park in Walnut Creek.

Chronicle of San Francisco / Hearst N / Chronicle of San Francisco via Gett

The fire protection district has also taken into account the concern to fight unnecessary fires, which could take away vital resources during other fires they may have to respond to over the weekend.

“If there were winds forecast right now, it would be red flag weather,” Hill said. “It will only be exacerbated by the heat.”

But a top priority, he stressed, was to ensure people took the risk of heat-related illness “very seriously”. Walnut Creek’s decision to close the parks to the public during the heat wave comes after the tragic death of Berkeley resident Philip Kreycik, who disappeared after running at Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park in July 2021. Temperatures reached 106 degrees the day he disappeared, and authorities later said heat exhaustion and disorientation may have played a part in his death.

“Heat-related illnesses and injuries are not to be overlooked,” Hill said. “It can be an extremely serious matter. We urge residents to limit or eliminate outdoor activities during the height of the heat in the coming days, to identify places where they can stay cool – at home, or at a friend or neighbour’s house.

While Contra Costa Health Services issues a heat and health advisoriesHill emphasized the importance of seeking other cool interior spaces due to the possibility of power outages during the heat wave. He also advised the public to stay hydrated and watch people and pets who will be particularly vulnerable to sweltering conditions, including the elderly and children. People should also prepare take-out bags in case of evacuation in case of fireand if they see one, report it immediately to 911.

More thermal safety tips can be found at Contra Costa Health Service website.

As the heatwave continues, more open spaces may close. Check the status of each neighborhood before visiting to ensure availability.