- Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) - https://www.wildcalifornia.org -

EPIC Tips for Recreating Responsibly During Shelter-In-Place

Written by EPIC Intern, Thomas Premo

[1]

Arcata Community Forest.

After days of self-isolating it’s easy to long for the outdoors. One of the many appeals of Humboldt County is our close proximity to redwood forests and scenic beaches. The benefits of being outside are numerous, with outdoor areas providing fresh air and an escape from all the fears and anxieties we’re currently experiencing. Recently The Department of Health and Human Services of Humboldt County’s updated shelter in place order directs all residents to self-isolate, leaving their homes only to perform “essential activities” and practice social distancing when outside. This order allows for outdoor recreation including walking, hiking and biking activities, not utilizing communal equipment like playgrounds and picnic tables and in open areas or designated trails/ pathways where social distancing guidelines can be met.

With this in mind how can we work to ensure the health and safety of ourselves and others while recreating responsibly? Leaving home will always include more of a risk of spreading or contacting COVID-19, but this risk can be minimized by taking a number of different steps. Below are several general guidelines and best practices to keep in mind when going outdoors to protect the health and safety of yourself, and your community. It is important to note that things are changing often, and generally it is best to take the most precautious approach possible while staying up to date on the latest news and guidelines from public health officials.

[2]Best Practices for Responsible Recreation Outdoors

• Make the health of yourself and others your number one priority. If you have symptoms or have been in contact with others who have them, it’s best to stay home and contact your doctor.

• When outdoors, enjoy recreation while keeping a safe social distance of six feet from other individuals and following other CDC and health authority guidelines for protecting yourself and others.

• Recreate with caution and avoid high risk activities that may lead to injury. Healthcare systems are overwhelmed or will be soon, so it is best to not add to the strain.

• While recreating, avoid crowded and popular areas such as trailheads where social distancing may be difficult, as well as areas with crowds and during high times of use when possible. Public health experts express the necessity of social distancing and the danger of spreading the virus that crowding in wilderness areas can present.

• Respect closures and be a good steward. Be mindful that while areas may be open, there is limited service and maintenance. Practice leave no trace principles to keep outdoor spaces safe, clean, and healthy.

• Stay local when recreating. Stay as close to your home area as you can and recreate on trails and in open spaces that are uncrowded and nearby. The further one travels, the more potential they have of spreading the illness, especially in less populated areas where crowds can put communities at unnecessary risk.

• Stay informed. Check local, state, and federal guidelines for updates on restrictions for recreational access and health recommendations designed to protect communities and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

What Is and Isn’t Open?

As public areas including National and State Parks defer to Public Health guidelines, many areas in Humboldt County are currently closing access to vehicles in an effort to reduce the number of visitors while remaining open. Recently, the Redwood National and State Park as well as the Trinidad Head Trail Loop have closed vehicle access on many of the roads leading in. The parks remain open to day-use by walkers, hikers, and bicyclists, but facilities including campgrounds, visitor centers, and restrooms are closed. Currently, Humboldt County has a several other parks closed to the public. It is best to always check the website of your destination for updates on closures and other guidelines as they are likely to change in the future. With this in mind, it is best to check the following resources for up to date information on park closures.

For information on Humboldt specific park closures, visit:

Humboldt Gov COVID-19 Park Updates [3]

For information of State Park closures including a list of closed parks and amenities visit:

State Park COVID-19 Updates [4]

Information on National Park closures and restrictions can be found here:

National Park COVID-19 Updates [5]

In closing, there are definitely benefits to staying active and spending time outdoors in the current situation we find ourselves in. However, is best to stay local and explore nearby places close to home instead of traveling to popular outdoor recreational areas. One can ensure the health and safety of themselves and their communities by following the advice of public health officials and making responsible choices when enjoying outdoor recreation.