State parks offer social distancing with a viewJun 25, 2020 12h20 ● By Josh Wood
Utah has 44 state parks and museums. (Joshua Wood/City Journals)
By Joshua Wood | [email protected]
Utah’s State Parks welcomed more visitors than normal this spring as residents sought a safe escape from COVID-19 quarantine. With restrictions easing throughout much of the state and people looking for safe ways to get out, officials anticipate that visitation to continue. To keep people safe during peak seasons, officials encourage visitors to practice responsible recreation in state parks.
“We didn’t close any doors,” said Eugene Swalberg, public information officer with the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation. “Many of the parks saw greater than normal seasonal visitation.”
Initial lockdown measures restricted visitation to Utah State Parks to county residents only in April. Then, as restrictions eased in May, park visitation took off. The four state parks near St. George, for example, all saw higher than normal attendance this spring even with limitations in place. In fact, some parks had to limit visitors on busy days as parks like Quail Creek State Park filled up.
“Many reservations were canceled due to COVID for a period early on,” Swalberg said. Reservations and day use then increased as restrictions eased and people looked for ways to practice social distancing in the great outdoors.
Even in cooler Northern Utah, park visitation was on the rise this spring. East Canyon, Deer Creek and Willard Bay all saw more people in April than in years past, according to Swalberg.
In Southern Utah, campgrounds in state parks have been full, while day use has also increased. Kodachrome Basin State Park reported full campgrounds in spring once county-level restrictions were eased for state parks. The appeal of open spaces has continued to attract visitors.
“Once you hit the trails, you’ve got room to spread out and practice social distancing,” said Nathan Martinez, park manager at Kodachrome Basin State Park. “I think people were tired of being cooped up. They wanted to get outside and do some hiking, and this is a great place to do your social distancing.”
Utah has 44 state parks and museums and over 2,300 campsites. Visitors can hike or bike 324 miles of trails in state parks. The parks reflect the diverse landscape of Utah and offer visitors the opportunity to get out. A list of parks and COVID-related updates can be found at stateparks.utah.gov.
For those who journey to the parks, the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation encourages visitors to be safe when visiting. “The buzz word is responsible recreation,” Swalberg said. “We encourage social distancing, and for people to not congregate at trailheads, clean up after themselves, and to stay home if they’re sick.”