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St. Louis closes parks to cars, issues summonses for churches still holding services

Social media posts show hundreds of cars lining the street in O'Fallon Park, people standing side by side. Another immediate concern: reports of guns and gunfire.

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis leaders are closing roads to all vehicles in some of the city's biggest parks. 

O’Fallon, Fairground, Carondelet and Willmore parks are closed to all vehicular traffic. Some roads in Forest Park also will be converted to pedestrian-only use.

At O'Fallon Park, city leaders said the concern is two-fold: public health and also public safety.

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Videos posted on the social media app Snapchat this weekend showed hundreds of cars lining the street in O'Fallon Park. People were standing side by side. But an even more immediate concern were the assault rifles in the videos that came up next.

"We are trying very hard to keep parks open, but we are continuing to make changes to them to encourage folks to social distance," Mayor Lyda Krewson said in a Monday afternoon Facebook Live.

Bishop Elijah Hankerson was on a conference call with St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition when Krewson announced the changes.

He said he's watched the virus affect his colleagues in the church.

"This week I experienced a tragic loss... one of my good friends that has been a friend for close to a decade," Hankerson said.

On the conference call, Judge Jimmie Edwards said they've also issued summonses for two churches — St. John Church of God and Hopewell Missionary Baptist — because leaders were still holding services in violation of the city's 10-person limit.

"To be honest, I wasn't surprised at all considering the personal experience I had this week," Hankerson said. "A couple weeks ago, I probably would've thought that was very extreme [and] it doesn't take all of that, but people are dying."

Krewson said she's now leaning on clergy members to spread the good word about social distancing to people who haven't already heeded the call.

"Let's shut-in, lock-in and stay put until this passes over," Hankerson said.

In Forest Park, the three road closures are as follows:

  • Government Drive from Wells Drive to Washington Drive
  • Fine Arts Drive from Government Drive to Lagoon Drive
  • Lagoon Drive from Fine Arts Drive to DeBaliviere Circle

Krewson stressed people can still come through the city's parks for walks. She added the open roads will allow for more distance between pedestrians.

Violators will be subject to towing.

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