CHARLOTTE — For weeks, people have been gathering at parks, ignoring social distancing guidelines. Now, the county has ramped up the restrictions in another attempt to keep people apart.
Mecklenburg County commissioners took new steps Tuesday to reduce the amount of people gathering at local parks as the number of COVID-19 cases in the county passed 800.
People who want to go to the park must walk to it and not drive. Officials said the gates leading to county parks will be closed.
If some members of the public still feel the need to gather, the county warned it will shut down all parks and greenways.
For those who decide to drive their vehicle and park at the gate, their car will be towed, officials said.
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Law enforcement will patrol parks to make sure people practice social distancing.
When Pamela Mann, a regular park visitor, pulled up to the gate Wednesday afternoon, she didn’t expect to see the gates closed.
“I come here every day and I was surprised that the greenway gates were locked,” she told Channel 9.
“People like me are going crazy because we’re stuck in our homes and can’t get exercise,” said cyclist Roger Thompson.
Not surprisingly, there were fewer people out on the greenway Wednesday afternoon than there have been -- and that’s the point.
“I have seen amazing things from the citizens here, from the businesses and the churches that are really stepping up and doing the things they need to do during this time,” said CMPD Deputy Chief Jeff Estes.
So far, police said they have not had to fine or arrest anyone in parks for breaking the stay-at-home order. They did make eight arrests and issue a dozen citations at a protest outside a women’s clinic over the weekend, and Estes said they will do the same if someone challenges them in the parks or anywhere else.
“I want to make it clear: if any citizen, business or anyone else is asked by an officer, told by an officer, to comply and they don’t, they’ll be cited,” Estes said. “If they continue not to comply then they’ll be arrested. We don’t have any choice. This is a pandemic. It’s time to take it seriously.”
In Concord, officials are taking steps to make sure they don’t have to do the same thing.
Parks are still open in Concord and when Eyewitness News anchor Susanna Black stopped by some of the parks, people seemed to be keeping their distance.
Parks and Rec staff said they have had some violations. They had to close off the playgrounds with caution tape, but still people are ducking under or climbing over to play on the equipment.
The message city officials want to get out now is you wouldn’t cross the caution tape at a crime scene or a fire, so don’t cross it at the park either.
Police officers and Parks and Rec staff are out at all parks now trying to educate people on the order. But, they said they need residents to help keep the parks open so they don’t have to take measures like Mecklenburg County.
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