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Willow Grove Park packed but to stay open - if visitors heed virus safety

Willow Grove Park packed but to stay open - if visitors heed virus safety

Willow Grove Park was jammed this weekend, but the Port of Longview won’t close it if visitors take social distancing seriously.

About 800 vehicles visited the park on Saturday and Sunday, Bill Burton, port facilities director, told port commissioners Wednesday. That’s up from about 300 vehicles during previous weekends,

For now, port staff has barricaded the playground equipment and covered pavilions as a COVID-19 safety precaution.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s order doesn’t prohibit people from going outside, as long as they practice social distancing and only congregate with people from their household, said port legal counsel LeAnne Bremer. The order also allows parks like Willow Grove to stay open.

“But I think it’s probably incumbent on the park to monitor the situation and make sure people aren’t having their family gatherings out there,” Bremer told the commission. “If there is abuse, you may want to close it because it’s important people keep their distance from others.”

Interim CEO Dan Stahl said the park’s popularity last weekend likely stems from “a combination of other places being restricted and good weather,” said

Commissioners Jeff Wilson and Doug Averett, attending the meeting by phone, voiced support for keeping the park open.

“I would recommend that our beautiful ... (walking) path around that area serves a well-needed service to our constituents and others that can practice social distancing and at the same time get some of that rare commodity called fresh air and exercise,” Wilson said.

Averett echoed Wilson: “It’s a place to get out, get some exercise and take your mind off this crazy world we are living in.”

The port will post informational signs to remind visitors of the state’s social distancing and hygiene standards, Burton said. The port also hopes to increase the frequency of park restroom cleanings, from every other day to daily, depending on the janitorial contractor’s availability and stock of cleaning supplies.

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