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Visiting Delaware Parks and Wildlife Areas During COVID-19

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There are spectacular spots throughout Kent and Sussex counties to kayak and enjoy nature from the water.

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Months ago when our staff was planning a feature story about outdoor adventures and events in Kent and Sussex counties for the current issue of Delaware Today, there was no way any of us could have foreseen the extraordinary changes headed our way. (To read this story, enjoy complimentary access to our April issue here.)

The COVID-19 outbreak has caused government officials and citizens to step up and do their part to help slow the spread and flatten the curve of the disease. From limiting large gatherings to avoiding close contact with others, it’s safe to say our daily lives have been jolted, and so too, has our coverage as a media publication.

As this issue went to press, the world looked very different than it does today. As a result, the print version of “Southern Exposure” in the April 2020 issue of Delaware Today magazine lists a collection of Kent and Sussex County festivals, special events and family offerings that may or may not occur this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. Delaware Today encourages readers to stay up-to-date on federal and state recommendations and safety precautions, and to monitor the status of these events going forward.

As for the parts of the story centered around visiting parks and recreational facilities, the CDC says:

Staying physically active is one of the best ways to keep your mind and body healthy. In many areas, people can visit parks, trails, and open spaces as a way to relieve stress, get some fresh air and vitamin D, stay active, and safely connect with others.

However, know what safety precautions to take before you go. While these facilities and areas can offer health benefits, it is important that you follow the steps below to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

Here are the dos and don’ts from the CDC on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 when visiting recreational areas.

DO

  • Visit parks that are close to your home
  • Prepare before you visit
  • Stay at least six feet away from others (“social distancing”) and take other steps to prevent COVID-19
  • Play it safe around and in swimming pools. Keep space between yourself and others

DON’T

  • Visit parks if you are sick or were recently exposed to COVID-19
  • Visit crowded parks
  • Use playgrounds
  • Use hot tubs, spas, water playgrounds or water parks
  • Participate in organized activities or sports

On March 22, Delaware Gov. John Carney issued a stay-at-home order for Delawareans. As of April 15, most state parks, nature and wildlife areas continue to stay open. However, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control announced it will take steps when necessary to limit the numbers of visitors within state parks and wildlife areas, following crowding and public health concerns. Here are the DNREC’s tips and guidance for visiting parks and wildlife areas at this time:

  • Parks or wildlife areas may be restricted, or areas may be closed if it is determined based on observation of parking lots or groupings of people that lack of responsible social distancing has become an issue.
  • While parks and wildlife areas are large, many visitors use the same amenities. Visitors should try to spread out from others within these areas.
  • Visitors to parks and wildlife areas are urged to limit the time of their visit so the overall number of people in each area is reduced.
  • Consider visiting parks and wildlife areas in off-peak times. For overall visitation, sunnier and warmer days are more popular than cloudier or cooler ones. In many parks, visitors pick up mid-afternoon.
  • Bathrooms remain closed in all parks and wildlife areas and at boat ramps.
  • Beaches are closed except for exercise, dog-walking and some vehicle surf-fishing under restricted conditions.
  • Out-of-state visitors must observe a 14-day quarantine before entering a park or wildlife area.
  • Responsible social distancing practices should always be maintained, even while outside.
  • All currently allowable activities are subject to change.

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