Applications are trickling in from churches, gyms and other organizations following a Board of Supervisors decision to waive permit fees for certain gatherings at county parks during the shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
As of Friday, permits had been granted to GC2 Church and Yoga Jai Ma to use 4S Ranch Community Park and for Love of Christ Fellowship to use Los Penasquitos Canyon County Preserve.
Four other churches, five fitness facilities, one performing arts workshop and one dance class also have applied for permits.
A pastor at GC2 Church and director at Yoga Jai Ma said the congregation and students they serve are looking forward to seeing one another in person after months of Zoom meetings.
“People are really craving for personal contact,” said Pastor Luke Chen at GS Church in Rancho Bernardo. “And kids miss their friends.”
The church is scheduled to hold its first service at 4S Rancho Community Park on Aug. 30.
Yoga Jai Ma, also in Rancho Bernardo, held its first yoga class at the park on Tuesday and is permitted to use the park on Monday, Tuesday and Friday mornings.
“There were definitely some tears from people getting to see their friends again,” yoga director Nita Mehta said. “They did air hugs, and everyone talked from a distance. It’s good for mental health.”
Public gatherings were prohibited by a county health order earlier this year as one of several measures aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Gyms, yoga studios and churches are among the organizations still not allowed to hold gatherings indoors.
While the prohibition on gatherings in parks has eased, the ban on indoor gatherings still is in place. With many people expressing frustration at not being able to attend church services and business owners complaining they may lose their livelihoods because of the shutdown, the county Board of Supervisors on Aug. 5 agreed to waive fees for some activities in county parks.
Mehta was on the phone with the permitting office at 8 a.m. the following morning. Yoga Jai Ma received its permit Monday.
“They did move very quickly,” said Mehta, who also complimented the staff members she dealt with for being professional and helpful.
Fees normally range from $200 to $500 for a minimum three-hour block.
Chen said the fees are not prohibitive, and he suspects the church might have paid them in the past. Until the county announced parks were lifting the fees for religious services, however, he said he didn’t realize that churches always were allowed to use public parks, as long as permits are acquired.
Mehta also said the fees were not an issue, and she would pay them and continue using the park if the county were to revoke the waiver once the restriction on indoor activities is lifted. Many students in her studio are hesitant to attend classes inside because they are older, and their age makes them more vulnerable to COVID-19, she…