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Howard parks open but gates closed to vehicles in an attempt to control crowds during coronavirus pandemic

While Howard County parks remain open amid the new coronavirus pandemic, the gates at all parks have been closed as of Wednesday so people cannot access the parks by vehicle in an effort to control crowds, the Department of Recreation and Parks announced.

Residents are still able to enter parks via access walking paths.

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Rec and parks announced last week that all facilities — including the department’s headquarters, its three community centers, the Robinson Nature Center, the Meadowbrook Athletic Complex, the Kiwanis-Wallas Hall, and Belmont Manor and Historic Park — will be closed through March 29.

All large events, gatherings, pavilion rentals and weddings, as well as programs that include 50 or more people, are canceled through May 11.

The department stressed Wednesday that while the parks can still be accessed by foot, restrooms within all of the parks are closed and park patrons are urged to stay off playgrounds as the cleanliness of the equipment cannot be guaranteed.

While schools have been closed due to coronavirus concerns, the Department of Recreation and Parks tweeted that staff has been monitoring parks this week and have observed that federal, state and local social distancing practices are not being followed.

The department tweeted that at one point staff members observed more than 250 people on and around a playground and approximately 50 people on a basketball court. The department also said at one point the parking area at Centennial Park South was nearly full.

As of Wednesday, there have been at least 85 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Maryland, according to state officials, with eight of those in Howard County.

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