Pennsylvania has thousands of miles of trails, each of which provided a much needed respite during the stay-at-home orders of the COVID-19 pandemic. This led to Pennsylvania’s trails to not only become increasingly used and suffer added strain, but also find a newfound appreciation among the individuals who took to the trails during the stay-at-home orders. In response to the increased trail usage, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council has compiled a report examining and summarizing trail usage throughout the state during the first several months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their findings support that Pennsylvanians, from rural to urban areas, enjoy outdoor recreation close to home and have found refuge in the miles of Pennsylvania trails. The full report can be read here.
The Pennsylvania Environmental Council is now accepting applications for its water trail mini-grants. Grant awards range from $500 – $10,000 through five programs covering specific goals and topics focused on land and water trails, conservation, and outdoor recreation, to name a few. Applications are being accepted until July 3, 2020. Full details and applications materials can be found here.
As bike paths have become more popular due to COVID-19, it’s important to share the trail when going out for a bike ride.
Thursday, April 23, at 2:30 pm
Managing Walking & Hiking Trails in the Year of Covid-19
The purpose of the call is to discuss developing, maintaining, and otherwise managing walking and hiking trails in these interesting times. It’s an opportunity for people to share what is going on, seek solutions to (or commiserate on) trail problems, and identify resource and training needs. Registrants are welcome to suggest topics for conversation or volunteer to brief people on items of note by emailing Hilary Hirtle at [email protected].
Register at https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJwvc-iuqT4oEtF5RqLhT8ILH9ixPvX5lwZh
Friday, April 24, at 2:30 pm
Managing Bicycle/Multi-Use Trails in the Year of Covid-19
The purpose of the call is to discuss developing, maintaining, and otherwise managing bicycle/multi-use trails in these interesting times. It’s an opportunity for people to share what is going on, seek solutions to (or commiserate on) trail problems, and identify resource and training needs. Registrants are welcome to suggest topics for conversation or volunteer to brief people on items of note by emailing Hilary Hirtle at [email protected].
Register at https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEldOGqrTMsEtIS-IXoo7FCPtF6LQrPhY0m
On April 2, 2020, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn reminded Pennsylvanians that being outdoors is good health care and self care, but recommendations for social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus still apply.
“During this time of significant changes to our daily routines it’s clear that our need for and appreciation of nature is greater than ever,” Dunn said. “Outdoor activities are a great idea to relieve stress and as immunity boosters, but they should not include exposure to high-touch surfaces or other groups of people — we need to spread out.”
Dunn noted the best advice to slow the spread of COVID-19 is to stay at home. Engaging in outdoor activity, such as walking, hiking, or running is allowed if social distancing is maintained.
Some tips for avoiding groups of people outdoors include:
- If you have a yard, spend time there outdoors every day.
- If possible, take a walk around your neighborhood with the people in your family, as long as you can stay six feet away from neighbors.
- If you decide to leave your neighborhood, plan for several alternate locations, so if you arrive at your first one and there are crowds, you can move on.
- Choose a less busy time of day, such as early morning.
- Find a local park or trail that offers enough space for social distancing. Pennsylvania has more than 6,000 local parks that are identified on an interactive map.
- Some municipalities have closed local parks to protect visitors and employees, so check the status of the park before you go. If the park is open, bathrooms and water fountains likely will not be, so plan ahead.
- There also are more than 12,000 miles of trails in Pennsylvania, most of which remain accessible during this period. Find a nearby trail at trails.dcnr.pa.gov.
State and local parks, state forests, and trails are seeing record numbers of visitors, with more anticipated as the weather turns warmer and fishing season begins.
From March 17 to 25, Presque Isle State Park in Erie saw an average 165 percent increase in visitation from the same dates last year.
State park and forest facilities such as restrooms, playgrounds, and all overnight accommodations are closed, and staff is limited. The public can access lands and trails.
Be respectful of natural places by practicing Leave No Trace ethics:
- Avoid crowded parking lots and trailheads – find a different spot.
- Use the bathroom before you visit.
- Bring a bag and carry out your trash.
- Take your trash home with you, as there is limited staff emptying trash cans.
- Clean up after pets and carry out the bags.
Pennsylvania has 121 state parks, and 20 forest districts.
On March 23rd, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn announced that all facilities at state parks and forests in Pennsylvania will be closed until April 30 to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The public will still be able to access trails, lakes, forests, roads, and parking areas for passive and dispersed recreation, such as hiking. Dunn noted this includes campgrounds, cabins and all overnight accommodations. Anyone with reservations in this time period will be contacted, and full refunds will be made.
“During the past week we’ve seen many people hiking trails and heading to the outdoors as a way to get exercise and relieve stress,” Dunn said. “We remind everyone that it’s OK to go outside, but we should still be practicing social distancing to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“This means we should spread out for outdoor activities – if you visit a public place and the parking lot or trailhead is crowded, try another spot, or head back to your neighborhood to take a walk if that’s possible,” Dunn said.
Closed DCNR facilities include:
- Park and forest offices and visitor centers
- Campgrounds, cabins and all forms of overnight accommodations
- All reservable facilities
- Public programs, events, and trainings are canceled through April 30
The best advice to slow the spread of the coronavirus is to stay home. If you are looking to be outdoors, stay as close to home as possible including your backyard, neighborhood, or local park or trail unless they are crowded (check first to make sure they are open, as some local parks are closed).
Visitors can help keep state parks and forest lands safe and clean by following these practices:
- Avoid crowded parking lots and trailheads
- Use the bathroom before you visit
- Bring a bag and carry out your trash
- Clean up after pets
- Avoid activities that put you at greater risk of injury, as there is limited staff to assist
To help avoid exposure to COVID-19 and still enjoy the outdoors:
- Don’t hike or recreate in groups – go with those under the same roof, and adhere to social distancing (stay 6 feet apart)
- Take hand sanitizer with you and use it regularly
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, and nose
- Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with a tissue or flexed elbow
- If you are sick, stay home