~ PVN staff report
On Wednesday, Secretary of the interior David Bernhardt directed the National Park Service to temporarily suspend the collection of all park entrance fees until further notice.
“This small step makes it a little easier for the American public to enjoy the outdoors in our incredible national parks,” Secretary Bernhardt stated in a press release. “Our vast public lands that are overseen by the Department offer special outdoor experiences to recreate, embrace nature and implement some social distancing.”
Outdoor recreation does provide an outlet for recreation to cure the cabin fever that will inevitably set in all across the country, but those who visit public parks are encouraged to still follow hygiene rules to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“The Department of the Interior and NPS continue to urge visitors to do their part when visiting a park to follow CDC guidance by maintaining a safe distance between yourself and other groups; washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze; and most importantly, staying home if you feel sick,” the press release states.
“Specifically, the CDC recommends high-risk populations, such as the elderly and people with underlying conditions, take extra precautions to be best protected against the spread of coronavirus.”
Shenandoah National Park will remain open, but with limited services. SNP posted on its website over the last three days (March 18-20) that:
- Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive and all trails remain open;
- Park rangers and emergency services personnel remain on duty to protect visitors and park resources;
- All Visitor Centers are closed;
- Park concessioner, Delaware North, will open Lewis Mountain Cabins and Campstore on March 26, as scheduled;
- Big Meadows Wayside will open as scheduled on March 27, with some operational changes — no groups larger than 10 people, hours will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the dining room will be closed;
- The opening of the Lewis Mountain and Big Meadows Campgrounds are delayed until April 9 and April 10, respectively;
- The official park brochure will be available at the entrance stations while supplies last;
- Handouts, including hiking maps, Junior Ranger books and other materials, will not be available;
- Passport stamps will not be available.
The schedule of openings may be found at: https://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/hours.htm Please note as each opening approached, park and concessioner managers will work together to make decisions that reflect the recommendations of the CDC, state and local public health authorities in consultation with NPS Public Health Service Officers.
For trail maps, download them at https://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/downloadable-guides.htm
Junior Ranger books may be downloaded at https://www.nps.gov/shen/learn/kidsyouth/beajuniorranger.htm
Updates about the NPS response to the coronavirus will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus. Please check with individual parks for specific details about park operations.