Georgia forced to close trails as thousands flock to parks amid coronavirus outbreak
Last weekend, Georgia Department of Natural Resources rangers were forced to close trails after thousands of people descended upon state parks and did not follow social distancing guidelines. At Cloudland Canyon State Park, rangers asked people standing close together at the falls to separate. Local news agency FOX 5 reported that there are only three rangers to patrol the 4,000 acres of the park, so enforcing social distancing rules has been a challenge.
On Sunday, the Department of Natural Resources announced that they will enforce stricter social distancing at Georgia parks and lakes. “The Department of Natural Resources will enforce the executive order limiting large gatherings with officials patrolling bodies of water and campgrounds,” the agency said in a press release. “They are monitoring coves where people tend to congregate and, if necessary, using bullhorns to tell people to comply with the order. Officials will approach people in violation of the order and demand compliance for the well-being of our citizens and state. Local officials are also working hard to ensure compliance with local directives, which vary by city and county across our state.”
Prescribed fires have been postponed across the South
The U.S. Forest Service has postponed all prescribed fires in the Southern region (region 8) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision was made after assessing risks to employees and the public, as well as the Forest Service’s ability to mitigate those risks. The Forest Service identified a long list of risks, including increasing smoke during a global pandemic that causes respiratory illness.
“The Forest Service remains focused on the safety and well-being of our employees and the public we serve across the U.S. and abroad. Our mission-critical work, such as suppressing wildfires, law enforcement, and other public service responsibilities, will continue within appropriate risk management strategies, current guidance of the Centers for Disease Control, and local health and safety guidelines,” the Forest Service said in a press release.
Virginia is under a stay-at-home order. What does that mean for going outdoors?
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued a stay-at-home order on Monday, lasting through June 10. The order essentially requires Virginians to spend Spring at home. The order falls during the time of year when many were ramping up to hit the trails. The question many are asking—is it okay to go outside?
Northam’s order does allow outdoor exercise, stating that people can engage in outdoor activity, including exercise, if individuals comply with social distancing requirements. Keep in mind that many parking areas at parks are closed, as are short-term stays at privately owned campgrounds. Virginians that do head to parks and trails are asked to follow CDC guidelines and to stay at home if experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19.
Photo of Cherokee Falls on Daniel Creek at Cloudland Canyon State Park in Georgia from Getty Images