As national parks begin to reopen amid coronavirus, visitors should plan for ‘new normal’

BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Utah (AP) — After closing amid the coronavirus pandemic, the National Park Service is testing public access at several parks across the nation, including two in Utah, with limited offerings and services. Visitor centers and campgrounds remain largely shuttered at Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef, but visitors are welcome at some of the sites.

“I felt like they did it right here because if they opened all the services, I think it would have been too much. Too many people would hit it,” Donna Sullivan, of Sedona, Arizona, told The Salt Lake Tribune Wednesday at Bryce Canyon.

Sullivan was on a day visit to hike the park’s Rim Trail and Bryce Amphitheater, two of the few hiking destinations currently open at Bryce. She found plenty of room to social distance, but Bryce will likely see larger crowds as word gets out that the park is open and will not collect entry fees.

Visitors should steel themselves for a “new normal” that will not likely square with their last trip, said Acting Park Service Director David Vela.

Trump calls for national parks to reopen. Advocates say it's too soon.

“You may have facilities that aren’t going to be available, but the (park’s) footprint will be. So it will be a different visitor experience, and it will be a different normal that we’re going to need to own and, frankly, mitigate,” Vela said Friday. “This gets to the value and importance of making sure that visitors know what to expect when they get to the park, making sure that visitors go to the park’s website (and) social media ... as to what is accessible, how to plan your trip, and, most importantly, what are the expectations when you get there.”

This undated photo, shows Hickman Arch at Capitol Reef near Torrey, Utah. As the coronavirus pandemic continues, the National Park Service is testing public access at several parks across the nation, including two in Utah, with limited offerings and services.

Recent crowding at southern Utah’s state parks could offer a hint of what’s headed Bryce’s way later this season, said Bryce Park Ranger Peter Densmore.

“This experiment, this limited reopening is really a cooperative effort between us and the public. It’s not possible to reap the full benefits of the mitigations we put in place if people aren’t aware of them and helping us to enforce them,” Densmore said at the shuttered visitor center.

While the park reopened its core attraction, Bryce Amphitheater, Capitol Reef took an opposite approach, keeping its historic center at Fruita and the Scenic Road closed for now.

“You will see more and more parks provide recreation access. We are doing it very thoughtfully,” said park service spokeswoman Vanessa Lacayo.

Parks are staffing up and will increase access as workers are in place to patrol trails and roads, host campgrounds and operate visitor centers and museums. At the Utah parks, seasonal employees from out of state must quarantine for 14 days before they can report for duty, which will slow the process.

Openings have yet to be announced for Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.

Major parks throughout the country that have begun limited openings include Badlands and Wind Cave national parks and Jewel Cave National Monument in South Dakota; Everglades National Park in Florida; Indiana Dunes National Park; Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada; Mount Rainier National Park in Washington; Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky; Pinnacles National Park in California.

In this May 4, 2020, file photo, Park ranger Tyler Gagat wears a protective face mask as he monitors activity at the Flamingo boat ramp during the new coronavirus pandemic in Everglades National Park in Florida, as the park gradually reopens to the public in phases.

Advocacy groups fear the park service is moving too fast and urge extreme caution.

“We are also eager to get Americans back into our national parks. But it is too soon,” warned Phil Francis, a retired superintendent who heads The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks. “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.”

Most park staffers will be in contact with visitors and many live on-site, in close quarters, in government-owned housing, he said. According to a park service document, parks should estimate that up to 40% of the total staff at the park may require isolation and 4% may require hospitalization.

“This is not only impossible under the current setup,” Francis said, “it is unacceptable.”

Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/destinations/2020/05/10/coronavirus-national-parks-reopen-visitors-plan-new-normal/3105103001/

News Related

ORTHER NEWS

Trump’s ‘mission accomplished’ moment is premature and deadly. We have not defeated COVID.

Desperate for crowds and adoration, Trump has put his most fervent supporters at risk of getting a deadly disease. Future historians will be astonished. Read more »

NFLPA president JC Tretter says NFL is putting season, players at risk with its coronavirus approach

NFL Players Association president JC Tretter said Tuesday the NFL is putting the 2020 season at risk with its coronavirus approach, calling on the league to better “prioritize player safety.” “Like many other... Read more »

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says he tested positive for the coronavirus

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro says he has tested positive for COVID-19 after months of downplaying the virus’ severity. Bolsonaro confirmed the test results while wearing a mask and... Read more »

Venice Film Festival forges ahead amid COVID-19 pandemic with reduced lineup

The show will go on for the Venice Film Festival in September, but with a few modifications due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers said Tuesday that they are pushing forward with plans for... Read more »

Amtrak offers buy-one, get-one promotion on its sleeper trains amid COVID-19 — with a catch

Amtrak wants you to have sweet dreams the next time you travel — so much so that it’s sweetening the deal on its sleeper “roomettes.” The rail service is offering a buy-one-get-one-free discount... Read more »

Florida teen treated with hydroxychloroquine at home before dying of COVID-19, report says

FORT MEYERS, Fla. – The family of a 17-year-old Florida girl who died last month from COVID-19 treated her symptoms at home for nearly a week before taking her to a hospital, a... Read more »

Mookie Betts worried MLB coronavirus testing woes could prevent him from ever playing for Dodgers

During nearly four months away from the game, Mookie Betts said he “stayed away from baseball to keep myself sane.” It’s not hard to understand why. The 2018 American League Most Valuable Player... Read more »

Tom Hanks doesn’t get ‘how common sense has somehow been put into question’ with coronavirus

Read more »

Can Gov. DeSantis force Florida schools to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic? Some school leaders seem doubtful.

PALM BEACH, Fla. — As concern about the state order spread online, some school leaders said: Not so fast. As Florida educators puzzle over how to start the new academic year, Gov. Ron... Read more »

Texas surpasses 200,000 coronavirus cases after 4th of July holiday weekend

AUSTIN, Texas – Texas reached 200,000 total COVID-19 cases Monday, just 17 days after crossing the 100,000 threshold, a figure that took the state nearly four months to hit. The grim milestone came... Read more »