Harrisburg, PA — Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn noted that during this difficult time of the pandemic, people have turned to parks, forests, trails, and neighborhood green spaces in record numbers and reminded potential visitors of the things they can do this holiday weekend to stay safe.
“With their social lives upended and travel plans cancelled millions of Pennsylvanians are taking to the outdoors for much-needed opportunities to get exercise, relieve stress, and be with loved ones while remaining safe and socially distanced – but that is key,” Dunn said. “We are reminding people that they need to find uncrowded areas, have a mask and wear it if they can’t keep their distance, and help us take care of special natural places.”
During May, June, and July, the Pennsylvania state park system saw increases of more than a million visitors each month over the same periods last year, representing monthly visitation increases systemwide of as much as 36 percent, with some parks seeing 50 to 100 percent more visitors.
Campgrounds have been fully booked weeks in advance, and some parks have been so popular that they reach capacity by 10:00 A.M.
“Pennsylvania has 121 state parks that anyone can visit for the day regardless of their financial situation, and visitors should consider some new destinations to avoid crowds,” Dunn said. “Get online and pick out a few options and remember that state forests also have less-traveled trails and primitive camping that provide good alternatives. Plan ahead so you have a good and a safe experience.”
Dunn also reminded people that if they love their outdoor places, they should show it by taking their trash home with them, cleaning up after pets, staying on trails, and respecting other visitors and the natural resources by abiding by rules.
“Taking these actions helps our staff, who are working hard welcoming record numbers of people to state parks and forests, protect visitor safety,” Dunn said.
Although swimming pools will close after the Labor Day weekend, DCNR is extending swimming seasons at some state park beaches into September to offer additional opportunities to cool off if the weather remains warm.
DCNR’s website map includes beach updates by park. Users should choose the red bar web alert on the homepage that says “DCNR Facilities – What’s Open and Closed.”
The secretary noted that increased outdoor recreation is also helping boost Pennsylvania’s economy, supporting outfitters, bait and bike shops, and many other small businesses in rural and urban areas.
COVID-19 safety measures remain a good idea in the outdoors:
- Avoid crowded parking lots and trailheads
- Avoid activities that put you at greater risk of injury, so you don’t require a trip to the emergency room
- Don’t hike or recreate in groups – go with those who live together under the same roof, and adhere to social distancing
- Have a mask with you and wear it when you encounter people
- Take your trash home with you
- Take hand sanitizer with you and use regularly
- If you are sick, stay home
To help visitors plan ahead and maintain social distancing, DCNR has developed some suggestions visitors should consider exploring if a state park or forest is experiencing overcrowding.