Beginning Thursday, Dallas Park and Recreation officials are restricting weekend use of the Katy Trail to certain people each day based on the first letters of their last names.
The plan is part of an effort to reduce congestion on the trail and enforce social-distancing measures the city and Dallas County put into place to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
People whose last names begin with letters A through L will have access to the trail on Thursdays and Saturdays. Those whose last names begin with letters M through Z may use the trail on Fridays and Sundays. Anyone will be allowed to use the trail on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
In a statement, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said the measures were designed to ensure that the trail stays open without becoming a public health hazard.
“The Katy Trail is an incredible asset to our city, and I love that Dallas residents want to use it to get fresh air and exercise during these difficult and unprecedented times,” Johnson said. “But I support the Park and Recreation Department’s approach to creating adequate physical distancing on the Katy Trail. We cannot allow this amenity to become a health hazard. We have to be willing to adjust our practices and behaviors and take personal responsibility to stop the spread of COVID-19 so that we can save lives and get through these challenging times as quickly as possible."
Dallas County's stay-at-home order allows residents to go outside for exercise or to walk pets. City officials have tried, with limited success, to persuade trail users to practice social-distancing measures while using the popular Katy Trail and White Rock Lake Trail. City officials have threatened to shut down the trails if users don't keep their distance. Earlier this month, Dallas city marshals began patrolling the Katy Trail to make sure trail users practice social distancing.
John Jenkins, director of Dallas Park and Recreation, said the city wants to keep its outdoor spaces accessible. Visitors need to do their part to protect themselves and others, he said.
“We know that getting outdoors is another way for families to cope with stay-at-home regulations," Jenkins said. "Overcrowding and congestion on the Katy Trail make it nearly impossible for users to practice adequate physical distancing. Our communities’ safety remains our key concern. We are working together to reduce the spread on this pandemic."
Johnson and Jenkins encouraged residents who are looking to get outside to go to smaller, less crowded parks and trails in their own neighborhoods rather than flock to the city's bigger parks.