Doko Meadows walking trails open; park, Manor, playground, restroom closed

BLYTHEWOOD – During a two-hour zoomed town council meeting Monday night, council spent an hour discussing whether or not to re-open the park’s walking trail before voting 4-1 to open it. Councilman Larry Griffin voted against.

At issue was the fact that the trail has been used steadily since it was officially closed by a vote of town council on March 16.

Councilman Larry Griffin said he was not against the trail being open, but he felt opening it would be an invitation to citizens to use the entire park.

Mayor Bryan Franklin disagreed.

“We opened the Farmer’s Market on Wednesday afternoons until November. If we open the walking trail, and then a bunch of kids show up down at the [park’s] rugby field, now they’re violating the governor’s executive order [for social distancing] and they can be prosecuted. So, when you say if the trail’s open, the whole park’s going to be open, that’s not true,” Franklin said. “We are allowing only for the walking trail to be open. But if someone wants to get out of their truck and walk their dog, get back in their truck and go home, to me that’s common sense. They’re doing what the governor has mandated in his executive order. I trust the people to use common sense. But if a crowd gathered in the park and I found out about it, I would call Deputy Kevin Dukes and have him go over there and break the crowd up because they would be violating the law.”

Councilman Donald Brock said he didn’t believe access could be restricted to just the walking trail.

Franklin again said that if people are congregating in the park, a law was put in place by the governor that can be enforced to break up crowds. He said separate families have been seen picnicking in the park and people have been using the walking trail, but he doesn’t see that as a violation. But he reiterated that a bunch of people congregating is a violation of the law that is enforceable.

“Don’t go down this road of ‘We can’t enforce it,’ Franklin said. “If someone steps off the trail, should they go to prison? That’s not what we’re saying. We’re saying, ‘Come out and walk in this public area, walk your dog, walk your kids, push a stroller, and then get in your car and go home. Don’t congregate.’ I think people are using common sense.”

Franklin suggested the town could install signs stating that the walking trails are open, but the rest of the park, restrooms, playground, Manor and town hall remain closed to the public.

After making several attempts to call for a vote during the almost-hour-long discussion of the trail closing, Councilman Eddie Baughman made a motion to open the trail only. Even then, there were questions from other council members about whether coronavirus germs might be lurking on areas of the amphitheater that could infect park visitors and whether or not the germs could live on concrete surfaces.

“The bottom line,” an exasperated Franklin said, “is that many, many public areas are open now that are known as grocery stores where the public congregates. You get my point.” Baughman’s motion passed just before the clock struck 9 p.m