‘Stay Safe, Stay Home’…or get off the beaten path

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Gov. Ned Lamont has urged all Connecticut residents to “Stay Safe, Stay Home” to help minimize community spread of COVID-19. The state parks and forests department shared that all trails and grounds are open for solitary outdoor enjoyment.

“If you plan on visiting a park, it should be for solitary recreation, not group activities,” according to state officials. “Please plan ahead as many amenities and indoor facilities are closed.”

In addition, locals may have access to local parks and open space parcels. Whether it’s state land, local land, or your own backyard, make sure to take precautions.

In an effort to enhance social distancing, officials have also released the following protocols for those planning to utilize state parks and forests:

If you’re not feeling well, stay home! Signs and symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

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Rather than traveling to some of the most popular spots, for example, Hammonasset Beach State Park, Sleeping Giant State Park, or Bluff Point State Park, try a park you may not have visited before or one close to your home. Because most park and forest facilities do not have open restrooms, visitors are encouraged to plan a trip to a nearby park for a short, local visit.

If you arrive at a park and crowds are forming, choose a different park or trail, or return another day or time.

Observe the CDC’s minimum recommended social distancing of six feet from other people, whether you’re walking, biking, or hiking. Practice it and know what it looks like.

Warn other trail users of your presence and as you pass to allow proper distance and step off trails to allow others to pass, keeping minimum recommended distances at all times. Signal your presence with your voice, bell, or horn.

Follow the CDC’s guidance on personal hygiene prior to heading to the park. Wash your hands, carry hand sanitizer, cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs, handrails, and equipment.

Bring water or drinks. Public drinking fountains may be disabled and should not be used, even if operable. Bring a suitable trash bag and leave no trash, take everything out to protect park workers.

There have been some changes to operation, access, and amenities:

Entrance Fees: All state parks can be accessed by Connecticut residents free of charge, supported by the Passport to Parks program.

Park Closures:  DEEP will be monitoring visitor capacity at the state’s most popular parks and may reduce the parking threshold to further limit the number of visitors and help to prevent overcrowding. For up-to-date information on park closures, follow @CTStateParks on Twitter.

Restrooms: To prevent community spread of COVID-19, indoor spaces at State Parks and Forests are closed. Public restrooms will be closed at most state parks. Be prepared before you leave and time outings so that you are not dependent on public restrooms.

Indoor & Outdoor Facilities: DEEP’s indoor spaces, museums, nature centers, and most bathroom facilities are closed to prevent community spread of COVID-19. DEEP is identifying specific locations and features within parks and forests where people tend to congregate, such as observation towers and picnic pavilions, and will limit access to those structures. Please use your judgment in avoiding spaces where 10 or more people are gathered and maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet.

Camping: The opening of camping season at Connecticut State Parks and Forests will be postponed until Memorial Day weekend in May, unless a further delay is required. All campground reservations that were made for stays prior to Memorial Day weekend will automatically be cancelled and refunds will be processed.

Classes: In-person environmental education programming, including Conservation Education and Firearms Safety and Aquatic Resource Education classes, have been temporarily halted, but on-line education opportunities will continue.

DEEP will be closely monitoring state and federal guidelines for minimizing the spread of COVID-19 and will make further adjustments to state park and forest operations as needed.

More tips for safe enjoyment of outdoor spaces are available from the National Recreation and Parks Association at www.NRPA.org.