Marty Walsh announces new park rules after reports of people playing sports and not social distancing

"Quite honestly, you're putting other people at risk by doing this."

East Boston, MA - 3/24/20 - Ignoring calls to socially distance in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus or COVID-19 men play soccer in LoPresti Park.  (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
Men playing soccer Tuesday in LoPresti Park in East Boston. –Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh says “most people are doing a really good job” with the social distancing rules aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

But not everyone.

After numerous recent reports of people playing team sports and otherwise ignoring those rules in the city’s parks, Walsh announced new measures Sunday aimed at discouraging group activities in public green spaces.

The state’s stay-at-home advisory forbids team sports, as well as public gatherings of more than 10 people. However, during the recent warm weather, Boston’s tip line received numerous complaints of packed basketball courts, fields, and beaches.

“People are still gathering in groups and playing sports in our parks,” Walsh said. “This is not social distancing. … Quite honestly, you’re putting other people at risk by doing this.”

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While parks remain open for “passive recreation” like walking or jogging, Walsh announced Sunday that sports like soccer, street hockey, basketball, and tennis are banned. City employees have already begun putting zip-ties on basketball nets. Walsh also said they’re planning to put up more signage informing visitors of the rules, and did not rule out further action if they weren’t followed.

“The last effort is to lock the park down,” he said. “We don’t want to lock the park down.”

The city has already temporarily closed golf courses, playgrounds, and tot lots. And following the state’s stay-at-home advisory last week, some neighboring cities, like Cambridge, had already closed public basketball and tennis courts. Somerville officials did however note Saturday that “kicking a ball with another person or members of your household is OK,” as long as it does not result in a pickup game.

Walsh said he understood people, especially those with children, were “antsy,” but pleaded for the public’s voluntary cooperation with the rules.

“We’re not going to be arresting people,” he said. “I don’t want to be fining people. We shouldn’t have to do that. By now everyone understands the severity of the coronavirus, or most people should understand the severity.”

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Boston had reported 614 cases of COVID-19 and two deaths due to the disease as of Saturday afternoon. Statewide, there have been more than 4,000 confirmed cases and 44 deaths. And while elderly people are most vulnerable to the disease, Walsh said Sunday that young adults gathering and playing sports contribute to its spread and run counter to the efforts to “flatten the curve.” He also asked real estate agents to stop hosting open houses and urged people against throwing “wine parties.”

Walsh acknowledged that it was “hard’ for everyone accustomed to the freedom to “being able to live our life that we can’t right now” and said he hoped no other generation would have to experience “what we’re going through right now.”

“I’m asking people to work with us here,” Walsh said. “If you’re not concerned about yourself, be concerned about your neighbors, your family, your friends, and the people around you.”


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