A few months back, we cleared out of Shenandoah to make room for healing. We passed the time by being Parked Together, virtually exploring Shenandoah, or perhaps enjoyed an online wildflower hike with a park ranger. As restrictions begin to ease for some national parks around the country, know that every park is unique. And with that uniqueness comes particular difficulties in the preservation of habitats and public safety. The fact is, if we wish to recreate outdoors, we need to do it responsibly.
If you feel confident in venturing out during a Phase Two reopening of Shenandoah National Park, consider joining a community of stewards and ask yourself these questions:
What should I do before I go outdoors to a place like Shenandoah National Park?
- If you feel sick, simply don’t go out. There’s too much at stake right now. Think about our vulnerable community members.
- Follow CDC and state guidelines, such as Forward Virginia.
- Consider going only with household members if you do decide to hike, bike, or even climb. It’s too soon to mix in with social groups, however tempting it may be. It’s hard to imagine, but all must pass, and there will eventually be a time to recreate safely with friends.
- Check park closures and alerts, especially as places like Shenandoah continue phased reopenings.
- Restrictions are different from county to county, so please respect their unique guidelines and follow them.
- Avoid rural or gateway communities surrounding parks like Shenandoah, as they may not have as much access to resources such as medical personnel and the like.
What happens if my favorite trailhead is overcrowded or worse, still closed?
- First off, consider equipping yourself with a Plan B or C before you leave the house. There are many places you can still go, and better to have mapped this out ahead of time than to lack phone service to find a new trail system.
How can I protect myself and others if I go on a hike, bike, or any other outdoor activity?
- Be prepared for a lack of open restrooms and other facilities. Consider sanitation by washing your hands. And bring your hand sanitizer.
- Things like your backpack, trail markers, benches, etc. like surfaces in town. Sanitize your hands and don’t touch your face.
- Always remember to Leave No Trace.
- Respect closed train systems. They are closed for a reason. In many areas, backcountry camping is still prohibited.
- Be reasonable and conservative with how you venture out. Accidents in the outdoors can put unnecessary stress on first responders. Bring a first aid kit.
- Similarly, consider your community exposure and ease back into any outdoor recreation.
- Wear a mask if you’re near people.
- Maintain social distancing, above all. Stay six feet apart from other groups and if passing people on a trail, step aside to make room.
These are the moments when stewardship extends beyond the bounds of Shenandoah National Park. This is one of them.
Let’s take care of our park and our people, by way of recreating responsibly.