Faculty members in the Parks and Recreation Management Program at Western Carolina University, ranked the top outdoor adventure college by Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine, are urging caution for those seeking time outside as a respite from indoor isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We have to be part of the solution. This means recreating responsibly," said Debby Singleton, instructor in WCU’s Parks and Recreation Management Program. "Outdoor land managers are closing access to the areas where we love to enjoy spending time, but it is for our own safety, well-being and conservation of those areas. The employees of our favorite outdoor spaces have families as well and we are putting them at risk if tons of people go to those areas and potentially get injured and have to be rescued.”
Numerous local, state and national parks in the region are closing or restricting use of certain areas, citing an influx of visitors and crowded recreation areas.
"As hard as this is right now, outdoor recreation enthusiasts need to be role models. We need to be part of the solution to flatten the curve,” Singleton said. “Those favorite spots will be there when we get the 'all clear' to recreate in groups again, but it could be a long time if folks don’t take the public health warnings seriously."
Getting outside is also important, but maybe this isn’t the time to go ride your favorite mountain bike trail or paddle that favorite river, she said.
Per Singleton and the Outdoor Alliance, here are some basic coronavirus outdoor guidelines:
• Stay close to home for outdoor recreation – the farther you travel, the greater the potential for exposure
• Make the health of yourself and others your top priority – being outside doesn’t negate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prescribed practices
• Avoid risks – now is not the time to get lost or hurt in the woods
• Comply with regulations – check to see if limitations are in place before heading to a favorite outdoor destination, and respect closures.