27 California state park parking lots reopen

The Golden State is easing more restrictions amidst the COVID-19 pandemic including access to state parks.

Over the weekend, parking lots at more than two dozen state parks re-opened after closing at the end of March.

Officials said it's a slow rollout to minimize crowds.

The Forest of Nisene Marks in Santa Cruz County is one of the 27 state parks that re-opened its parking lot over the weekend.

The change comes seven weeks after the state announced the closure of vehicle access at all 280 state parks.

It's a welcome move for Lucas Bol, an Aptos father with a newborn baby.

"It's nice to not have to walk the full couple miles in with a stroller and kind of just get into the park. I’m a favor of limited parking," said Bol.

Most of the parking lots have about half the amount of normal parking spaces.

"We checked online and figured it out because we didn't want to come if we couldn't get out and move around," said Pam Coz-Hill of Santa Cruz.

The great outdoors in the COVID-19 era means face masks and shields for park rangers.

Gloria Sandoval, the Deputy Director of the State Parks Department, said visitors should be local and not cross county lines and shouldn't expect their usual nature outing because new visitor guidelines are in place.

"For example at some beaches, coolers and beach chairs are not allowed. At some of our parks, we have a lot of trails that are one-way trails and we're asking people to take hand sanitizer with them," said Sandoval.

36 state parks are still temporarily closed, one-third of which are in the Bay Area and include:

         -Lake Del Valle in Alameda County

         -Marsh Creek State Historic Park in Contra Costa County

         -San Gregorio State Beach in San Mateo County

         -Sonoma Coast State Park in Sonoma County

Rangers can and have issued citations, mostly for illegal parking, but officials say the goal is education.

They ask visitors to maintain a physical distance and if a park is packed to come back later in hopes of avoiding visitation surges.

"Santa Cruz right now is a nice bubble with a low infection rate and I'd like to see it continue that way," said Coz-Hill.

Officials warn they could close parking lots again if people don't follow the guidelines.

It has not been determined yet when all state parks could re-open.