National parks are opening across the country, but visitors should expect a ‘new normal’

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Stock Photo for Shenandoah National Park

National parks are opening across the country, but visitors should expect a ‘new normal’

Across the country, national parks are opening their gates and welcoming visitors after a prolonged shutdown due to the coronavirus. But park visitors should expect a “new normal,” David Vela, Acting Park Service Director at Bryce Canyon, told the Associated Press. Depending on the park, a new normal could include closed facilities and some closed roads and trails. Visitors are encouraged to check park websites for the latest information on reopening.

Some advocates for the parks, however, worry that the push to reopen is happening too soon and too fast. A park service document recently estimated that up to 40% of park staff may require isolation and 4% may require hospitalization. “Parks absolutely should not open until the safety of National Park Service employees, concession employees, volunteers and other partners, including those who work and live in gateway communities, can be ensured,” said Phil Francis, head of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks. 

National Trails Day moves online

The American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day was scheduled to take place on June 6. But like just about everything these days, the in-person plans have been scrapped due to safety concerns caused by the coronavirus. Nevertheless, National Trails Day will go on and the public is encouraged to take actions from home that protect trails and public lands and ensure outdoor access for all.

One way you can celebrate the day is by taking the #PublicLandsProtector Plege. The American Hiking Society is also asking the public to share on social media why access to trails and natural spaces are important. Photos tagged with #NationalTrailsDay and @AmericanHiking will be entered into a photo contest with a chance to win an outdoor gear prize package. 

Daring rescue of hiker caught in whirlpool is captured on tape

An off-duty officer’s quick thinking saved the life of a hiker in California over the weekend. California Highway Patrol Officer Brent Donley, who is trained in search and rescue, was hiking near Bass Lake in Madera County, CA, when he came upon a 24-year-old hiker who was trapped in a whirlpool. The hiker had tried to cross a waterway and had misjudged its velocity, becoming trapped in the whirlpool.

Donley tied a strap from his backpack around a branch and threw it to the hiker. With the assistance of other hikers, Donley pulled the man to safety. “This… call could have ended very badly if not for his help,” said the Madera County Sheriff’s Office. 

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