National Parks and COVID-19

truck driving through national park forest

We recently shared some tips regarding traveling with your family during these crazy times. For many, vacations together are an annual tradition and I have family members who, every year, take a trip around the United States to visit the different National Parks. They’ve done it since my cousins were little, and it’s great to see them re-creating photos from when my cousins were younger. National parks are a great way to get outside with friends and family and enjoy nature and outdoor recreational activities.

As everyone knows, each state is setting different guidelines with regard to re-opening amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Some states have gone back into lockdown, while others are slowly easing restrictions. Similar to the states, the different national parks are also differing with re-opening as time goes on. 

For example, the Amistad National Recreation Area in Texas has closed the entire park for the weekend of July 18-19th, due to COVID-19 health and safety concerns. Prior to that, picnic areas were closed due to the failure of groups to maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet from each other. The Agate Fossil Beds Visitor Center at the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in Nebraska was closed on March 18, 2020, and according to the National Park Service’s website for the Fossil Beds, same does not appear to be re-opened, however the park grounds and trails remained open to the public from dawn until dusk, while it is possible to adhere to the latest health guidance. 

When I asked my aunt if there was anything different about this trip, she told me that they’ve noticed a lack of park rangers in the parks. As a result, there have been changes at the different parks that they have visited. The first change they have noticed is that there are no park tours or informational hikes occurring. The public is still allowed to hike at the national parks, however because of COVID-19, parks have been using time entry systems for management. The lines at entry points at the parks were very long, and the park was limiting the number of people who could get into the hiking areas. My aunt told me that due to these restrictions, you have to hit the trails very early. One day, they arrived at 7:30 a.m. and learned that they arrived too late to enter any hiking areas. 

Another change is that half of the campgrounds in the parks that they are visiting were closed, mainly due to the reduced staff that the parks are currently operating with. Many of the parks are requiring visitors to adhere to their state’s health guidelines as well as the Center for Disease Controls guidelines when visiting the parks. This means that visitors may be required to social distance and wear masks. My family visited Rocky Mountain (which has a requirement of a timed entry permit or camping reservation to enter any area of the National Park), and commented that they were being very strict about social distancing and mask requirements. 

If you do choose to visit a National Park during this pandemic, make sure you are following all of the guidelines set forth by the Center for Disease Control and the state in which you will be visiting. Check the status of the national park you are trying to visit often, as each park’s websites are being updated with restrictions, closure, and guidelines as decisions are being made for each park. The National Park Service and the employees of each individual park are simply trying to follow guidelines and maximize the safety and health of the employees and visitors. Also, make sure you are being flexible. You can plan your entire trip down to the minute, however, as my family experienced, it can be very difficult to experience what you are trying to experience given the restrictions different parks have put in place. Lastly, make sure you are picking up after yourself. You should be doing this anyways, however, with restricted staff present on the National Park grounds, their attention should be on much more important matters than picking up the trash you are leaving behind. 

Written by Kelli M. Lardi

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This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.


This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.

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