Go take a hike: Parks, open spaces are still open during virus outbreak

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With businesses and sporting venues being closed down, the National Recreation and Parks Association said it saw a surge of public use of trails and open outdoor areas of parks.

While most outdoor programs and events have been canceled at these areas, the parks and trails themselves are still open.

With this in mind, the NRPA, as well as the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, have set up guidelines and recommendations for how people can still enjoy their hikes and stay healthy.

One thing that the NRPA stressed is to come to each park or hiking trail prepared.  Most public restrooms and water fountains are currently out of use.  According to a press release on March 16, the NRPA suggested hikers come with bottles of water and to use the restroom before arriving.  They also suggested hikers to bring a suitable trash bag to pick up their trash in order to protect park workers.

The DEEP had many similar guidelines but also made additional suggestions.  According to a press release, one suggestion was “rather than traveling to some of the most popular spots, for example, Hammonasset Beach State Park, Sleeping Giant State Park, or Bluff Point State Park, try a park you may not have visited before or one close to x`our home. Because most park and forest facilities do not have open restrooms, visitors are encouraged to plan a trip to a nearby park for a short, local visit.”

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The DEEP also suggested to communicate with other hikers, stating “Warn other trail users of your presence and as you pass to allow proper distance and step off trails to allow others to pass, keeping minimum recommended distances at all times. Signal your presence with your voice, bell, or horn.”

Both the DEEP and NRPA also stressed the guidelines explained by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which tells people to wash their hands and practice staying six feet away from each other.

The DEEP already announced that camping season in Connecticut is delayed until Memorial Day weekend, unless a further delay is required.  More tips for safe enjoyment of outdoor spaces are available at the NRPA’s website at  www.nrpa.org, as well as the DEEP website at portal.ct.gov/DEEP.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Spencer Dreher, email him at Sports@SouthingtonObserver.com.