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Beacon Senior News

Honor your health and our public lands

May 05, 2020 10:19AM ● By Beacon Senior News

How to recreate responsibly during COVID-19

Wondering what Safer at Home guidelines mean for recreation in our National Conservation Areas (NCAs)? As people begin to cautiously leave their homes, we must continue to make responsible decisions while on our public lands. Check out the following recommendations and guidelines to recreate in the NCAs responsibly.

Social distancing

Although we all love hitting the trails with friends and family, we must continue to practice social distancing while enjoying the outdoors. While this doesn’t mean you have to hike alone, it does mean that you need to maintain six feet of distance between yourself and others while hiking, and 15 feet of distance if running or biking.

It’s also recommended to only hike with your immediate household members and to wear a cloth mask whenever you leave your house.

The NCAs and other public lands throughout the Western Slope have seen increased usage during this time. Many trailheads and popular recreation spots have become extremely crowded.

If you arrive at a trailhead and it’s full of cars, please go to a less crowded area or return at a later time. Rabbit Valley, Bridgeport and Escalante Canyon are among the areas being overused.

Both Mesa County’s and the State of Colorado’s Safer at Home guidelines specify that you should not travel outside of your local community for recreational activities. 

Avoid risk

With hospital facilities and health care workers stretched thin, it’s extremely important to avoid risk. Hospital beds and ambulances are extremely limited right now, therefore “riskier” activities such as climbing, downhill skiing, and other adventure sports aren’t advised.

People should think about how risky activities put unnecessary stress on our emergency service providers and could take away resources from those battling COVID-19. Minimize this impact by avoiding risk and being prepared.

Stay local

We care deeply about the safety of our communities. To help prevent the spread of the virus to others, the governor’s Safer at Home guidelines strictly prohibit unnecessary travel, which includes travel for outdoor recreation. Luckily, on the Western Slope, we have abundant outdoor recreation opportunities right in our own backyard! Please stick to your local trails. Safer at Home emphasizes staying within 10 miles of your home for outdoor recreation.

Respect BLM facilities

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for managing our NCAs. However, as with many other businesses and agencies, the BLM has had to make changes in their current operations. Keep in mind that many facilities, such as toilets, may be closed. Please be respectful of these facilities. When enjoying the outdoors, bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Plan accordingly and follow Leave No Trace (LNT) principles.

Leave No Trace

recreate responsibly hiking

As always, it’s crucial to follow LNT principles. With increased visitation of our many recreation areas, it’s important now more than ever. These principles not only help us protect the land, but each other as well. Here are some key points to remember when following LNT:

Plan and prepare. Make sure the activity/trail you are about to recreate on is a responsible choice during this time. Ask yourself: Can I do this activity safely? Will the trail be too crowded? Pack plenty of water, food and First Aid, just in case.

Walk, camp and drive on durable surfaces. As always, it’s important to stay on designated trails to protect our fragile desert environment. This principle applies to vehicles as well. With trailheads becoming overcrowded, many people are parking in undesignated spots, running over fragile soil and plants. This is incredibly destructive to the habitat. If you can’t find a parking space, go to another trail in the area or come back at a later time.

Dispose of waste properly. Now more than ever, make sure you pack all of your garbage and waste out. This removes the risk of someone else having to pick up your trash and potentially coming in contact with coronavirus. Since bathrooms may be closed, follow LNT recommendations (In most locations, burying human feces in the correct manner is the most effective method). Land management agencies can advise you of specific rules for the area you plan to visit.

Click here for a complete list of LNT principles.

Respect other visitors

Again, please maintain social distancing while on trails, as others may have an increased risk of getting sick. Stop occasionally so other visitors may pass by you at a safe distance. Give out smiles and words of kindness freely—everyone needs positivity in their lives right now!

This article comes courtesy of Colorado Canyons Association