Weekend rules at Lake Merritt raise concerns, and complaints, about COVID-19 safety

J.R. Stone Image
Monday, April 12, 2021
Lake Merritt rules spark concerns over safe social distancing
Rules were being enforced on one side of Lake Merritt Sunday, and that pushed many onto the other side, which made for some unhappy patrons.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The beautiful weather made for a very busy day at Oakland's Lake Merritt on Sunday. Police have upped enforcement of rules in the park due to the massive crowds seen in recent months.

Sunday those rules were being enforced on one side of the park and that pushed many onto the other side, which made for more unhappy patrons.

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That "other side" was the north side of the lake, where vendors squeezed in. Many of those vendors had been on Lakeshore Avenue, which looked like a whole different town when our cameras were there. Police were enforcing the rules on that part of the lake in response to complaints about trash, parking and noise.

"They have the whole other side blocked off because there is too many people, but all it's doing is making a small space for the same amount of people. These are the same people that come out weekly cause there is no where else to go," says vendor Anthony Blanca.

"They're really congested there up front and as far as the pandemic goes, I don't think it was a safe thing to do at this time," says park-goer Raynae Randall.

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Many believe the strict enforcement on the one side is now causing a social distancing safety issue by the vendors, who have moved to the other side. But as busy as Lake Merritt was on Sunday with people, motorcycles, backed up traffic, and even horses, many we spoke with were enjoying themselves.

Although, many were also upset with the fact that complaints have forced any rule enforcement at all, saying "this is Lake Merritt."

"It's upsetting me and my home girl because like, where could you go? Come on now, come out here and chill. I'm about to make chicken, hot dogs and links. Come out here and get y'all some chips and dip!" says Royanna Sexton, who was in the park enjoying herself with friends.

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One neighbor says more needs to be done, and the extra enforcement on the other side of the lake hasn't helped his side.

"For me it's the extra noise and the kind of lawlessness that seems to have gone on. I guess it's a problem for the city because they don't seem to have the resources to follow through," says Andy Grant of Oakland.

Raynae Randall is hoping that as the city continues to enforce these restrictions, they do so in a way that won't put people in danger.

"We should be most importantly COVID conscience that people are still getting their vaccines, but we still need to be conscience and not lessen the area that people have," says Randall.

ABC7 News reached out to Oakland police and the Oakland City Council President Sunday night to get their take on these park issues, but they didn't respond.

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