Parks, golf reopen in Washington as some coronavirus restrictions ease

SEATTLE -- More than 100 state parks, trails and boating sites across Washington state reopened Tuesday, as well as some golf courses, as certain coronavirus restrictions were eased.

Meanwhile a group of Republican state lawmakers filed the latest challenge to Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision to keep schools, churches and nonessential businesses closed. Following similar federal lawsuits filed by GOP gubernatorial hopefuls Joshua Freed and Tim Eyman, as well as others, Reps. Drew MacEwen, Andrew Barkis, Chris Corry and Brandon Vick sued the governor in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.

They alleged that because the spread of COVID-19 in Washington has not been as bad as originally feared — a fact public health experts attribute to the success of social distancing efforts — there’s no justification for Inslee’s continued use of emergency powers.

Parks that opened Tuesday will be limited to daytime use only and the number of parking spaces will be reduced at some urban parks to discourage crowding. But authorities say all ocean beach parks and parks along the Columbia River Gorge on the Washington-Oregon border will remain closed to reduce impacts on rural communities and prevent crowds.

At the popular Chambers Bay golf course in University Place, Washington, many people were out on the links. The course, which hosted the 2015 U.S. Open tournament, instituted restrictions like having people play in groups of two unless. Groups of four were allowed if they were all part of the same family.

The parks and golf courses had been closed more than a month and are being re-opened under the first phase of the Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-stage plan to ease rules imposed to prevent the spread of the virus. Beaches and campgrounds would re-open under the second phase of the plan, although large gatherings would still be banned.

State officials plan to wait at least three weeks between each phase to see how the changes affect infection rates.