Utah State Parks Open To County Residents Only During Outbreak
Mar 28, 2020, 6:10 PM | Updated: 6:11 pm
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah’s state parks will remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic, but only to residents of the county where the park is located after Gov. Gary Herbert issued the “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive on Friday.
No matter how nice it might be to spend time inside her Sandy home, Christa Aquilla couldn’t wait to take her kids camping next week.
“They can get off their phones and their TV,” she said with a laugh.
Snow Canyon State Park in St. George.
It’s a place they loved camping in so much last year, they couldn’t wait to go back.
“We made those plans almost a year ago,” Aquilla said.
Like many people with plans, though, the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything.
“The coronavirus has been affecting a lot of people,” said Aquilla. “People are getting sick and we don’t want to spread it any more than anyone else does.”
That’s why the Aquillas are listening to Gov. Herbert’s “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive about only visiting state parks in the county where you live.
It’s part of the governor’s overall effort to try and cut down on traveling to help keep the virus from spreading so fast.
“We’re here to serve the people, but we’re also here to protect them as well,” said Lt. Eric Stucki during an interview at Great Salt Lake State Park Saturday morning.
Stucki, a law enforcement officer with Utah State Parks, said at this point, park officials are not checking visitor’s driver licenses to make sure they live where they say they live.
Rangers were hoping visitors stay honest.
“We’re asking people to follow the governor’s directive and do the goodness that they need to do,” Stucki said. “It comes down to common sense. It comes down to people taking care of themselves and taking this serious.”
Since the directive was announced late Friday afternoon, park managers are allowing those with reservations this weekend to stay.
Many people were in line at Antelope Island State Park in Davis County when Gov. Herbert made the announcement.
However, beginning Monday, visitors not from the county the park is in have to leave.
“This is a little bit of a difficult situation because we try to be the friendly ranger at all times,” said Jonathan Hunt, park manager at Sand Hollow State Park. “But, at the same time, we do want people to abide for the rule and we will ask them to be honest.”
March is a popular time of year for parks like Sand Hollow State Park in southern Utah, especially with Easter weekend coming up.
Workers have already been busy trying to get the word out.
“In the last couple of hours, we’ve been making a lot of phone calls, calling all of the campers that have reserved Easter weekend and stuff and telling them we will no longer be accepting people from out of county,” Hunt said.
For now, it’s the new reality we’re in.
It’s also one everyone is hoping doesn’t last long.
“Yeah, we’ll be back to normal soon. I hope,” said Aquilla.
For those with reservations next weekend and the weekend after, Utah State Parks officials said you will get refunds.
They’re working with Reserve America to make sure that happens.
This is a huge economic loss for the state, especially with campgrounds for Easter Weekend, but park managers said there are more important things than money right now.
The “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive will be in effect through at least April 13.
Of course, that could change.
“This is fluid,” Stucki said. “It changes daily, and people really need to be aware of that.”
For the status of a park you’re interested in visiting, and for more on the governor’s directive when it comes to outdoor recreation, you can click here.
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How Do I Prevent It?
The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:
- Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
- Avoid touching your face
- Stay home when you are sick
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
The CDC does not recommend wearing a face mask respirator to protect yourself from coronavirus unless a healthcare professional recommends it.
How To Get Help
If you’re worried you may have COVID-19, you can contact the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 to speak to trained healthcare professionals. You can also use telehealth services through your healthcare providers.
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