Piper Hounsel, 7, (left) shares a laugh with her brother Weston Hounsel, Friday afternoon in the waters off Howarth Park in Everett on August 14, 2020. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Piper Hounsel, 7, (left) shares a laugh with her brother Weston Hounsel, Friday afternoon in the waters off Howarth Park in Everett on August 14, 2020. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The heat is on, and officials urge responsible recreation

The Snohomish County parks director recommends having a plan B in case your first choice is too crowded.

EVERETT —With warm, dry weather that began Friday expected to get hotter, including highs Sunday that could reach 100 degrees in Snohomish County, officials are encouraging people to recreate responsibly.

In recent weeks, public health officials and Gov. Jay Inslee have voiced disappointment and frustration at seeing gobs of people packed together on beaches, not wearing masks or maintaining physical distance.

Yet heading into the hot weekend, Inslee said on Thursday that he was unaware of any proposals to close state parks or beaches to prevent such gatherings. Nor did he think such action was necessary. But the governor was quick to say continued crowding could lead to closures.

“We just need an ounce of common sense,” he said, urging individuals heading out to recreate and socialize to wear masks and keep a social distance.

Should large gatherings occur, Inslee said, “We need our state parks people and others to tell them to knock it off.”

While state parks aren’t doing anything different for the weekend ahead, Anna Gill, director of communications for Washington State Parks, said visitors are being encouraged to avoid crowds and abide safety procedures.

“We’ve taken steps throughout the pandemic to close off areas where people tend to gather in large groups,” Gill said. Rangers will educate large groups not wearing masks as they try to create a shared responsibility with visitors for keeping everyone safe.

Busy parks

In Snohomish County — where the National Weather Service in Seattle is forecasting high temperatures of 98 in Darrington, 95 in Monroe and 91 in Everett — Tom Teigen, director of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, reminded those looking to beat the heat that local parks, like restaurants and businesses, aren’t quite back to normal.

“Visiting parks is a little different during COVID,” he said. “There is a lot going on behind the scenes to keep a park up and running, especially in a pandemic.”

When a park becomes overcrowded, rangers begin limiting capacity, as a business would.

At times, rangers may close the gates to cars and pedestrians as a preventative measure to ensure the park isn’t overwhelmed and that social distancing can be maintained. This does not mean the park is closed, but cars won’t be allowed in until others depart.

Parks have remained open, because people have generally been respecting distancing and mask protocol, Teigen said. He hopes that will continue this weekend.

“If you see a parking lot is full or a park is crowded, stop for a moment, remember we are in a pandemic, and go somewhere less crowded,” Teigen said. “This is the perfect time to do some research and explore a park you haven’t been to before, or even enjoy your backyard.”

Teigen recommended having a Plan B to visit one of Snohomish County’s other 110 park properties.

On the road

On the roads, the Washington State Patrol will have troopers along U.S. 2 near Eagle Falls, a popular gathering spot that has created parking headaches for officers all summer.

Trooper Heather Axtman said the patrol will be issuing $30 parking tickets, and troopers are prepared to tow cars that are blocking the road or are illegally parked.

“We are crossing our fingers that people recognize that it is a very unsafe situation to block the roadway,” Axtman said. “We understand that it is a great hangout, … but we want people to do it safely.”

She said that additional DUI patrols will begin soon and last through Labor Day.

“We want you to get to your destination safely,” Axtman said.

Fire District 7 won’t be increasing staffing for the weekend. Instead, spokesperson Heather Chadwick said she hopes people will remember their water safety education.

“Have fun, but be smart about the fun,” she said.

Passengers on boats must have a life jacket accessible. Chadwick recommended that children swimming in lakes and rivers wear one, as well, because of hidden dangers like water speeds and cold temperatures.

“Don’t underestimate the power of our water.” she said.

Burn ban, fall risk

A residential ban is in effect for burning natural vegetation, but recreational fires are still permitted. Chadwick advised people to take precautions, due to the high potential for wildfires.

The anticipated weather had officials at Harborview Medical Center, the region’s trauma center, issuing a warning about the dangers of children falling from open windows on a warm summer day.

The hospital this year has treated 30 children who fell out of windows, including a 7-year-old who died.

Beth Ebel, a pediatrician and researcher at Harborview’s Injury Prevention and Research Center, said it is a common problem. As the weather heats up, many residences don’t have air conditioning, so windows are left open and children are at risk. Ebel said window screens won’t hold the weight of a toddler and only create a false sense of security for parents and kids.

“To prevent window falls, the critical thing is to know about this risk and to address it by limiting the opening of the window,” Ebel said. She recommends purchasing an inexpensive device that stops the window from opening more than few inches, so the child can’t get through.

Herald writer Jerry Cornfield contributed to this report.

Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; idavisleonard@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.

Ian Davis-Leonard reports on working class issues through Report for America, a national service program that places emerging journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. To support Ian’s work at The Daily Herald with a tax-deductible donation, go to www.heraldnet.com/support.

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