Turner Falls Park closes to public in response to COVID-19 recommendations

Sierra Rains
Turner Falls Park in Davis

The Turner Falls Park in Davis has been closed to the public until further notice.

On March 17, City of Davis Mayor Brian Davis signed a Proclamation of Emergency as a part of the city’s COVID-19 preparedness planning. The proclamation limited gatherings of 10 or more people and closed all city operated facilities to the public, including Turner Falls Park.

“There’s been a lot of thought put into this, but the mayor and the city council decided to close the park. Mainly we’re complying with the governor’s suggestions for the safety of our employees and our customers that we will have eventually,” said park manager Billy Standifer.

All public access to the park has been closed including day use activities such as hiking and swimming, and overnight stays or camping.

With no clear end to the pandemic in sight, Standifer said he is unsure how long the park may remain closed and is concerned about the financial impact a lengthy closure could have on the park.

“None of us have been through this before and it’s all an unknown deal. I’ve got concerns of when we will get to open,” Standifer said. “It’s impacting our income greatly.”

Though Standifer said he has not yet looked at the figures from this period last year, he estimates that the park has already lost nearly $300,000 to $400,000 in revenue. “The longer we stay closed the more we will lose on it,” he said.

The City of Davis funnels much of the revenue from Turner Falls back into the park to fund park construction and maintenance. Park wages also bolster the city’s sales tax and are sometimes used for expenditures in the city’s general fund such as street maintenance or the purchase of new police cars.

While the park is closed, Standifer said full-time employees will still be working to keep the park ready for when it does open again. Normally several seasonal employees are hired during this time of year, however, Standifer said they are not currently hiring in order to keep costs down.

“But we’ll have to hire a bunch of seasonal employees and I don’t know how quick we can get that done,” Standifer said. “Even with all the unemployment there is, that will still take some time to put people in place there before we can open.”

In the meantime individuals can go on a virtual tour of Turner Falls Park by visiting https://www.turnerfallspark.com/ to view sights all the way from the top of the water fall to the bottom of the blue hole swimming area.

Turner Falls Park normally operates under a maximum capacity and during the summer months can sell out quickly. However, when the park is able to open again Standifer said the number of people allowed in at one time may be temporarily expanded.

“It’s been an ongoing process that we’ll just kind of have to handle as it comes,” Standifer said. “Everyone just needs to be patient and be safe. This thing will be over with one of these days and we’ll try to be ready to go when it is.”