Roanoke closing its greenways amid coronavirus concerns

All greenways will close at 8 a.m. Friday

ROANOKE, Va. – Beginning at 8 a.m. on Friday, April 3, all of Roanoke’s greenways will be closed through at least April 30.

This includes the Roanoke River Greenway, the Garden City Greenway, the Mill Mountain Greenway, the Lick Run Greenway and the Tinker Creek Greenway.

Mayor Sherman Lea, Vice Mayor Joe Cobb and City Manager Bob Cowell made the announcement on Wednesday during a virtual news conference.

City Manager Bob Cowell said the decision was made because hundreds of people were utilizing the greenways and not social distancing.

City leaders said people in Roanoke have been blatantly disregarding the order to avoid groups of 10 or more.

Natural trails (like the Mill Mountain Star Trail) will remain open. However, the Mill Mountain Star overlook, as well as the road and parking lot leading to the overlook will be closed to the public.

Police and employees will be patrolling city parks to make sure that there aren’t large crowds or gatherings with 10 or more people. If there are large groups, those people will be asked to leave the parks and the city will be forced to shut down all city parks as a precaution.

City leaders said they understand that exercise and spending time outside is important for everyone’s mental and physical health, but the stay-at-home order isn’t a vacation and people need to follow it.

“Folks really need to think seriously. If you drive upon a parking lot full of cars, you need to go on to the next stop or go home and walk in your neighborhood. I mean, it’s that serious and we don’t take it lightly," said Cowell.

Cowell added that city officials are not going to look at how far apart people are from one another, instead they’re going to look at the number of people in city parks. If that number is more than 10, they’re going to have to shut them the parks down, too.

People using the Roanoke River Greenway on Wednesday said they’re disappointed, but not surprised.

“Unfortunately, I do agree with it, but it is a bad thing when people are trying to get out here and just get some exercising and take care of themselves during his pandemic,” said Josh Shrader, a runner who lives in Roanoke County.

Karen Parks who was riding her bicycle on the Greenway is a nurse practitioner and said that getting exercise outdoors is one of the only ways she is handling the chaos.

“This is what we need. We have got to get out and get our exercise feel normal on our days off because it’s getting more and more stressful at work," Parks said.

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You can watch Lindsey during Virginia Today every weekend or as a reporter during the week!