Let’s talk about how to recreate responsibility now that Governor Inslee is opening up some Washington State recreation sites, trails, and public lands.
Pacific Bleeding Hearts in the Forest
Firstly, I love springtime in the Pacific Northwest. It’s always beautiful here, no matter the season, but spring is especially glorious. It’s glorious even when we aren’t under Stay Home, Stay Healthy orders because of a pandemic. But let’s be honest, after spending hours every day on Zoom (as anyone who’s working from home can attest, Zoom Fatigue is a real thing), helping the kids with their online schooling, and not being able to go out with friends and family, the outdoors is especially enticing right now.
Frankly, who doesn’t want to run off screaming into the woods?
Secondly, while it’s always important to plan ahead, Leave No Trace, and follow posted signs and rules when we’re enjoying our beautiful state, with COVID-19, it’s essential that everyone recreates responsibility. This isn’t a sudden “hey, no worries!” free-for-all.
Being allowed back into the woods doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods when it comes to COVID-19.
Opening trails and public lands is going to require constant vigilance to ensure people stay safe and healthy. If newly opened parks become crowded, full of trash, or we see an uptick in the number people who get sick, our trails and public lands may close again. No one wants that.
So before you head outside, please keep the following in mind:
- Stay home if you are sick! If you feel unwell, even if you’re just a little under the weather and maybe it’s only allergies, please be a good citizen, protect the people around you, and stay home.
- Gatherings are still prohibited. That means recreating with your immediate family members only. No group activities with friends or extended family are allowed … yet.
- Be prepared. Remember we still need to physical-distance: stay at least 6-feet apart on the trail, in parking lots, on golf courses, and at launch areas. Bring your cloth face covering and wear it when you’re near other people. (Click this link for CDC instructions on how to make and wear your cloth mask.) Restrooms may not be open, so bring soap and water for hand washing, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper. And PLEASE be ready to pack out your trash, used wipes, pet waste, etc.
- Check to make sure where you’re going is open. Many state parks and trails will be open starting May 5, but local and federal lands may still be closed. If parks become too crowded or filled with trash, they may abruptly close again.
- Stay close to home. State parks and public lands are open for day use only. Camping is still prohibited. If you can’t get there and back in one day, it’s probably too far away.
- Be flexible. If you arrive at your destination and it’s crowded, it’s better to come back another time.
- Stay safe: clean hands and kind hearts! Be patient, give other people plenty of space, and avoid touching high-traffic surfaces. Wash your hands thoroughly as soon as possible. (Remember that soap and water you brought with you? Use it before heading home.)
Be aware, too, before you head outdoors, that the CDC has changed their guidelines regarding pets and COVID-19: they are now recommending that you self-isolate from pets when you are sick, just like you would any other family member. There just isn’t enough information about COVID-19 to know with certainty what is or is not a risk. With this new guidance, it’s important to keep your dog leashed and away from other people and leashed pets when enjoying trails and public lands. Click this link to read more about new CDC guidelines for pets.
Dodger is sad that he can’t be a wild-poodle on the trail, make new friends, and has to continue physical-distancing, but it would be even more sad if he made someone sick, or if he got sick himself. Even pets have to remain vigilant.
It’s good news that we’re able to get out of the house and enjoy our state’s beautiful trails and public lands. Being outside in nature, breathing deeply, exercising, and enjoying our state’s beauty is good for our physical and mental health. But please, everyone: recreate responsibility. We are all in this together.