New Yorkers love getting outside come springtime, and this is never more true than this year, with the COVID-19 pandemic keeping everyone at home. The good news is, we can enjoy the sunshine and warmer weather as long as everyone adheres to some common sense guidelines designed to #flattenthecurve and slow the spread of coronavirus.
Stay Close to Home And #RecreateLocal
The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) encourage New Yorkers to engage in responsible recreation during this public health crisis. They have issued recommendations based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health. They have also launched a new hashtag to encourage responsible recreation, #RecreateLocal.
New Yorkers can get outside, discover open spaces and parks close to home, and spend time with immediate household family members. This is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety during this time, while still maintaining social distancing guidelines. And, all entrance fees at state parks have been waived.
“New York State is home to some of the most spectacular public lands and parks in the world,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement. “In uncertain times, these special places can serve as an oasis from stress, fear, and anxiety. We encourage people to get outside – close to home – and follow these basic guidelines to help ensure your safety and the safety of your loved ones.”
Changes at State Parks, State Lands & Facilities to Reduce the Spread
For the safety of the community and to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the DEC and State Parks have undertaken steps to reduce public density at state parks, lands, and facilities, including:
- Closing all state playgrounds, athletic courts, and sporting fields
- Cancelling all public programs and events at State parks, lands, forests, and facilities until further notice
- Closing all indoor visitor facilities, such as nature centers, environmental education centers, visitor centers, and historic houses to the public until further notice
- Implementing precautionary measures at golf courses at State parks, including increased intervals between tee times, removing bunker rakes and ball washers, and decreasing use of golf carts
- Closing access to DEC-controlled fire towers to the public (trails and summits to towers remain open)
- Limiting parking (if parking lot is full, visit a different location)
Continue to Follow CDC & DOH Guidelines for Preventing the Spread
Adhere to the following while enjoying outdoor spaces:
- Stay home if you’re sick, or showing or feeling any symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, coughing, and/or troubled breathing
- Practice social distancing by keeping at least six feet between yourself and others, including when outdoors
- Avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, or high fives
- Wash hands often or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when soap and water are not available
- Avoid unnecessary contact with surfaces that are touched often, like doorknobs and handrails
Final Precautions While Visiting State Parks, Lands & Other Parks
Finally, the DEC and State Parks ask visitors to:
- Stay local and keep visits short
- Visit in small groups limited to immediate household members
- Maintain distance from others while in places where people tend to congregate, such as parking lots, trailheads, and scenic overlooks
- Avoid games and activities that require close contact, like basketball, football, or soccer
- Avoid playground equipment like slides, swings, and other frequently touched surfaces
- Do not share equipment like bicycles, helmets, balls, or Frisbees
- If you arrive at a park and crowds are forming, choose a different park, a different trail, or return at a different time/day to visit
- If parking lots are full, choose a different area to visit or return a different day (do not park on roadsides or other undesignated areas)
Camping Changes to Be Aware Of
There have also been significant updates to camping. All state-operated campgrounds, cabins, and cottages are closed to overnight visitation through April 30th. All visitors with reservations will be issued a full refund. Please be patient as refunds are processed. New York State has also suspended all new camping, cabin, and cottage reservations for the 2020 season until further notice.
Campgrounds are being assessed on a daily basis. If you’ve made a reservation for the season beginning May 1st, and they determine your campground is safe to open, your reservation will be honored. However, visitors wishing to cancel an existing reservation may do so and receive a full refund. Your patience is appreciated.
New Yorkers over 70 or those with a compromised immune system should not visit public spaces, including those outdoors. Remain indoors or spend time in the backyard or other personal outdoor space. New Yorkers who are sick or have had contact with someone who is sick within the last 14 days should also stay home and spend time in the backyard or other personal outdoor space.