Supervisors approve using county-owned parks for fitness, worship


SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday to immediately open county-owned parks for worship and fitness activities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To reserve a county park for worship or fitness, call 858-565-3600.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob made the proposal, saying it would “lend a helping hand” to both religious facilities and gymnasiums or fitness-oriented businesses unable to hold indoor services under a state order issued last month.

She said the county is following in the footsteps of what the city of Poway has already done.

“Not all of [the parks] will be opened up, but there will be close to 30 of them throughout the county,” Jacob said Wednesday.

A map on the county’s parks website shows the locations of the 29 county parks that can now be accessed with a permit.

Very few of the locations appear to be in the areas immediately west or north of downtown.

“That’s true,” said Pastor Arthur Hodges with South Bay United Pentecostal Church. “So, it obviously can’t accommodate everybody.”

Hodges oversees about 100 churches in the Southern California area. He strongly disagreed with Governor Newsom’s decision to close places of worship in the first place and he wasn’t alone.

Video from the past couple weeks showed a few congregations in the area going against public health orders. Wednesday’s ruling gives the churches the all clear to operate at parks with a permit and social distancing measures in place.

“I applaud San Diego County for that,” Pastor Hodges said. “It’s not the answer, but it’s an answer and a step in the right direction.”

Jacob said that restaurants have created outside dining areas on sidewalks and parking lots in response to a ban on indoor dining, and now the county can be creative.

“Sometimes, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel for a successful operation,” Jacob said before the vote. “I appreciate the board’s support on this.”

Supervisors also voted to streamline the application process and waive permit fees for qualified applicants wanting to use park space.

Along with implementing guidelines for religious institutions and fitness groups, Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer will also report back to supervisors within 90 days about fiscal impacts caused by fee waivers, according to information on the county agenda.

Last month, the Poway City Council voted to allow park usage for both fitness and worship activities. Jacob thanked Poway Mayor Steve Vaus for his leadership on the issue.

Click here to see a list of parks that are available for outdoor services or fitness.

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