A bicyclist wears a mask made from a bandana while riding near Back Cove in Portland on Monday  Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The City of Portland is closing two parking lots adjacent to the popular Back Cove Trail Tuesday to cut down on the number of people using the 3.6-mile path around the cove amid the coronavirus outbreak.

People can still use the trail for running and walking, but parking will not be allowed at the lots that provide easy access to it. Those lots are on Preble Street Extension, across the street from the Hannaford supermarket, and at Payson Park, near Tukey’s Bridge.

City officials said they hope to reduce the spread of the coronavirus by dissuading large groups of people from exercising in a relatively tight space typically used by runners, walkers, bikers and dog walkers.

“The City of Portland is closing all parking lots associated with the Back Cove Trail due to the high usage of the trail and overcrowding concerns in light of the State of Maine and the City’s Stay at Home emergency orders requiring that individuals stay at home, implement social distancing measures and limit gatherings and groups of people,” the city said in a statement Monday afternoon.

The parking lots will close Tuesday at 8 a.m. and will remain closed for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.

Michael Dansky, who lives on Arlington Street directly above the Back Cove Trail, said the city needed to take steps to reduce traffic on it.

“In the last two days, we have seen hundreds of people if not more than that walking the streets, riding bikes, running, etc. Less than 10 percent have a face covering. I am being charitable here. It’s really less than 1 percent,” Dansky said in an email sent to the Press Herald on Monday. “The worst are the runners. Huffing and puffing and they run right by people without moving over and narry a one with a face covering. People are not social distancing.”

In its statement, the city says that while outdoor exercise is allowed under the stay at home emergency orders, it is recommending that people “not drive far (or at all) to undertake such activities.” The city says more than 90 percent of its residents live within a 10-minute walk of one of Portland’s many open spaces and trails.

“The city recommends that individuals access one of these available parks, trails and open spaces within walking distance of their homes, and also reminds everyone to keep a six-foot distance from others while utilizing those spaces,” the statement reads.

Back Cove Trail is one of Portland’s oldest and most popular trails, according to Portland Trails, a nonprofit urban land trust. There are benches and two water fountains along the trail.

The trail’s surface is mostly stone dust with some paved segments, and it connects to the Bayside neighborhood and the Eastern Promenade Trail under Tukey’s Bridge. The city owns and maintains the trail, which runs along Baxter Boulevard.

For Portland residents looking for a place to exercise the city issued a map Monday with real time information that shows the status of Parks and Recreation facilities and open spaces and how they have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

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