LOUDONVILLE — Ohio’s state park system is getting more use than normal as many Ohioans seek alternatives to staying inside during the state’s stay-at-home orders. But while state parks can provide an escape, experts are asking that park goers maintain social distancing by staying six-feet apart during their trips.
Some state parks have been shut down to help enforce those rules. Hocking Hills State Park, Magee Marsh Wildlife Area and the boardwalk trail at Maumee Bay State Park have all been closed due to large crowds and lack of space in the past week. Other spaces now off limits at state parks include visitor centers, campgrounds, state park lodges, restrooms and playgrounds.
Park rangers have also been closing parking lots at state parks when they become too full in an effort to curb overcrowding. Visitors may also be given a friendly reminder to keep safe distances during a trip.
As for what visitors can do to limit the spread of the virus while outside, many of the precautions recommended by the Centers of Disease Control still stand. Wash your hands. Carry hand sanitizer, and wear a face covering.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is also encouraging park visitors to take certain appropriate precautions before heading to a state park.
Visitors need to keep in mind that since many of the ancillary services — such as restrooms — are now closed to the public, they need to prep accordingly. ODNR Spokesperson Sara Wickham said that visitors should also bring some form of trash bag so they can easily discard any garbage they may create.
Runners and hikers should also be extra careful as they maneuver through a park. While passing other visitors, hikers should step to the side to create the needed 6-foot gap between individuals.
In the same vein, infectious disease physician Dr. Richard Serrao recommended that those walking behind someone should maintain a steady distance to stay clear of potential disease-carrying agents. While water droplets from a sneeze, or just general chatter, will fall to the ground quicker outside than inside in general, an individual may still walk into the air residue of the individual directly in front of them if they’re downwind.
“It’s best that if you’re walking behind somebody, walk a little bit more to the sides, rather than directly downstream from someone,” Serrao said.
If you can’t visit one of Ohio’s state parks, there are tools available to connect you to the natural, historical and cultural assets of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Explore the links on the www.odnr.vog websit. Click on thr Digital Discoveries page to learn more about Ohio state park properties and programs and take some time to plan your next adventure in Ohio’s great outdoors.