National Parks To Re-Open in Stages Starting This Week Despite Concerns

National Park Service

The National Park Service announced late last week that they would allow some parks to increase access and services in phases on a case by case basis (similar to their closure).  They said they would be “following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local public health authorities,” and requested that people “please check the park website to determine its operating status.”  Some parks never closed, such as Channel Islands in California, and some will remain closed indefinitely, such as Yellowstone and Grand Canyon, while others are planning for re-opening and lodges are beginning to accept reservations for the summer again, according to a run down by the LA Times.

Why This Matters:  Following the CDC guidance is good, but caution is needed because even if open, people must maintain the proper distances and many facilities like restrooms will have to be shared.  It is a tough balancing act, as states begin to re-open and adjacent jurisdictions struggle to maintain health standards and consistency.  It is crucial that federal, state, and local officials work together and deliver consistent and sufficiently precautionary rules in place.  A rush to re-open too quickly and inconsistently could have disastrous results by complicating efforts at contact tracing.

What Will Open Soon

According to Travel + Leisure, the following parks are opening:

  • “Beginning May 6, Bryce Canyon will start allowing people to use the main park road and viewpoints to Rainbow Point as well as trails within the Bryce Amphitheater area, according to the NPS.”
  • “In Utah, where the park is located, restaurants were allowed to reopen on May 1 for dine-in services while retail stores were allowed to open with customers and employees told to wear face masks, according to the state.”
  • “The roads and trails that were closed in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, will begin a phased reopening on May 9, the NPS noted. Areas like campgrounds and picnic pavilions will remain shuttered for at least two weeks.”

According to the LA Times, the following parks opening:

  • “Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which straddles Utah and Arizona, will reopen up in phases. On May 8, major boat ramps for popular Lake Powell will open for days use Fridays through Sundays. A week later, the ramps will open daily for overnight visitors. By May 22, most of Glen Canyon’s 1.25 million acres of lakeside shoreline and hiking trails will be accessible to the public.”
  • “Everglades National Park in Florida plans to reopen some boat launch ramps, campgrounds and restrooms May 4;
  • Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia on Saturday reopened access to its beaches, public docking spaces and trails.”

New Jersey’s Example

The Garden State’s Governor, Phil Murphy, for example, is trying to split the difference.  He announced that New Jersey’s state parks and golf courses opened as of last Saturday, May 2, for some activities such as hiking, boating, and fishing, according to an executive order, but other places like picnic areas, playgrounds, and restrooms are still closed.  Travel + Leisure Magazine reported that the Governor said, “We understand that New Jerseyans want to get outside and get some fresh air as the weather warms up…However, this should not serve as an open invitation to rush back to normalcy and break the necessary social distancing measures we’ve put in place. This approach will also bring New Jersey in line with our neighboring states, which will discourage residents from needlessly crossing state lines for recreation.”

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