Mateo and Aciel Acosta raced down the Paul G. Boorman Trail on a perfect Friday afternoon.
Every twist and turn provided a new adventure in the brothers’ first trip to the trail with their mother, Estefany Acosta, and aunt, Daysi Acosta, following behind.
“The boys, they love riding their bikes, but we decided to come to the park today to get out,” Estefany said. “They love it here.
“It’s a new place they’ve never been.”
That was the scene up and down Longview’s trails Friday, with many users saying the trails give them a chance to get out for exercise, sunshine and fresh air amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has closed schools and forced a shelter-at-home order.
While the city’s trail system, which spans almost 9 miles throughout the city, and green spaces remain open, parks crews dispersed throughout town this past week to close down playgrounds at the city’s 24 parks. Swings were rolled up and caution tape wrapped around slides and other equipment.
The playground closures were part of an expanded order issued by Longview Mayor Andy Mack.
“Unfortunately, we were receiving word about large groups and people congregating around the playground, and that’s one of the reasons the mayor included that in the order,” Longview Parks and Recreation director Scott Caron said.
Now, it’s up to park patrons to determine if more measures will be implemented, he said. That could happen if rules aren’t followed.
“We have signs out at all of the parks to remind people of social distancing and to remind those on the trails to announce that they’re on the left or right when passing,” Caron said. “We’ve got to keep those things on their mind so people can enjoy the parks and we don’t have to take additional measures to close them.
“That’s our hope, that everyone will do their part. We’ve all got to be conscious of the situation that we’re in.”
Jasmine Ingram didn’t particularly want to come out Friday to the Boorman Trail, but her friend and workout partner, Danielle Daniels, insisted.
“She called me and said, ‘Let’s go,’ and I’m glad I did,” Ingram said. “It’s good to get out. I wasn’t going to do anything else today.
“It’s been very important to get out and get some fresh air. We’d go stir crazy without it.”
Added Daniels, who usually works out at a local gym: “It’s a mental break getting out here. It just gives you time to think and just breathe.”
Callen Scroggins works at a gym and said his workout time is a big stress reliever. With gyms closed, he found himself looking for that release.
“I’ve been out here every day,” he said. “It is a stress reliever and so many people find that relief at the gym, so now you can get outside, get some exercise and get that stress reliever this way.”
Callen and his wife, Caroline, have done workouts at home, but Caroline said even though it’s a workout, the walls are still there.
“We’re just finding ways to get outside — planting on the patio or doing things like that just to get outside instead of being inside with all of those walls closing in,” Caroline said. “It can be depressing, especially for people who deal with anxiety or depression, to stay inside.
“It’s a lot better to get outside.”
Brooks Morales, 3, enjoys swinging, but Thursday’s trip to Lois Jackson Park with his mother, Lindsey Morales, was more about a bike ride as he looped throughout the park.
“We’re just trying to make the best out of everything,” Morales said. “We’re just being resourceful in finding ways to be entertained and get some exercise. Luckily, the weather has been really nice, so we’ve been able to come out to the trails. We’re riding bikes. He’s a boy so he’s playing in the dirt, finding bugs and all of those things.”
Morales, a nurse, said that while they are still enjoying the parks, the biggest change has been the socialization aspect of playing.
“He’s an only child, so that’s a big reason we came to the parks and went to the LongviewWOW museum,” she said.
“It’s closed,” Brooks added before racing off again.
Like socialization, Caron noted that wellness is a big factor in the desire to take measures to keep the parks open. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends activity and exercise as a major part of coping with stress brought on by the pandemic.
“We certainly want people to get out and exercise because it’s good for both types of wellness — physical and mental,” he said. “It’s a good thing and something that we certainly feel is essential.
“In the same sense, we’ve got to do things to remain healthy as well. That’s our hope, that people will continue to self-police when it comes to the guidelines as much as possible, and if we have to step up then that’s what we have to do.”
All of the city’s recreational centers and athletic facilities are closed, Caron said. Basketball goals across the city have been removed due to the large crowds they can attract, but places for activities such as tennis and disc golf remain open.
Caron said construction of the Guthrie Creek Trail expansion under Judson Road is progressing, but construction of a skate park at Ingram Park is on hold.
Additionally, parks crews painted two pickleball courts on the existing tennis courts at Guthrie Creek Park. The installation of the nets is expected this week, adding another feature to the park system.
“People are getting out and experiencing parks more now than they have in the past, and we’re excited about them seeing what we have,” Caron said. “The parks are there for our residents, and we’re excited about them utilizing them responsibly, and that’s the biggest thing right now.
“Hopefully once things get back to normal, they will continue to use the parks. They’re here for everybody.”