MERIDEN — Hubbard Park is seeing one of its busiest springs in decades as people who have self-isolated get out for some fresh air.
“We’re always busy in the spring, but now there’s nowhere else you can go,” said Parks and Recreation Direction Chris Bourdon. Having worked for the city since the 1990s, he’s never seen the park so consistently busy.
Crowding is so heavy that department staff worked through the weekend to keep a count of how many vehicles were inside the park during peak hours and were prepared to close the entrances if vehicles exceeded parking capacity. The concern is that with so many pedestrians walking around the pond and viewing the flowerbeds along the roadside, someone could be struck by a vehicle circling the roads looking for an open spot.
The park’s famous daffodils are in bloom, but the annual Daffodil Festival scheduled for later this month was cancelled.
“We’ve never really had a situation like this, but the closest thing we can compare this to is certain festivals,” Bourdon said.
Despite the crowds, visitors are largely following the social distancing guidelines outlined in signs installed around the park. All playgrounds in the city, including those at Hubbard Park, have been closed due to concerns about the virus lingering on surfaces.
“You’d have to be living under a rock to not know social distancing and what that means … I think people are definitely respecting it,” Bourdon said.
If crowds congregate and disregard proper spacing, the park will be shut down, Bourdon said.
According to the state Department of Public Health, the number of confirmed cases COVID-19 cases in Connecticut continued to rise over the weekend to a total of 5,276 as of Saturday, increasing by 362. It also reported that 165 deaths have been associated with the disease.
Glastonbury resident Chris Garrit said even with the crowds he felt safe enough to visit Hubbard Park for the first time Sunday, joined by Jen Pradhan and their newborn daughter.
“Most of the time it’s not nearly as crowded as it has been,” he said. “But I will say people outside have been doing a good job of not staying close to each other.”
With both of them working from home, Pradhan said being able to get out in the sunshine felt fantastic.
Parking was also scarce at Guiffrida Park, where overflow parking was set aside adjacent to the caretaker’s residence for the first time, Bourdon said.
Durham resident Dave Spiro — who was visiting Giuffrida with his wife, daughter and two grandsons — said it’s important that the kids have some normalcy and avoid going stir crazy.
“We’re all concerned with all the COVID stuff going on — it is concerning — but we don’t want to totally isolate,” he said.
He too felt comfortable relaxing along Bradley-Hubbard Reservoir with his family, saying people passing by were all keeping their distance.
Bourdon said the city is expediting efforts to create a guidebook of local hiking locations in an attempt to take some of the strain off Hubbard and Giuffrida and help locals learn about some of the other parks and trails in and around Meriden. He pointed to the Quinnipiac Trail off Oregon Road and the blue-blazed trail system, which crosses through Hubbard Park and continues across the Chamberlain Highway to the east and into Berlin to the north.
“Meriden’s blessed with an abundance of walking trails and hiking trails,” he said.
Other local parks and hiking trails include:
■Higby Mountain - Meriden/Middlefield
■Black Pond State Wildlife Area - Meriden
■Wadsworth Falls State Park - Middlefield
■Millers Pond State Park - Durham
■Trimountain State Park - Durham
■Tyler Mill Park - Wallingford
■Lakeside Park and Quinnipiac Trail - Wallingford
■Roaring Brook Park - Cheshire
■Mixville Park - Cheshire
■Riverbound Farm Sanctuary - Cheshire
■Crescent Lake - Southington/Plainville
■Pinnacle Rock - Plainville
■Bicentennial Park - Berlin
■Ragged Mountain - Berlin/Southington
■Tunxis Trail - Southington/Wolcott■Black Pond State Wildlife Area - Meriden