COVID-19 OFFICE UPDATE - April 3,2020
Land Trust Presidents, Chairs, Executive Directors,
I hope you are well,
On Tuesday, the Governor announced that she is closing state parks and beaches to access by cars starting today (Friday, April 3).
Some municipalities are closing their parks. (The science of preventing the spread of COVID-19 clearly supports closing playgrounds because many people touch playground equipment and are close to each other.) The Governor’s decision to close state parks is in response to gatherings of large groups in parks and at beaches the past weekends where people failed to practice social distancing.
The Nature Conservancy is also closing their preserves and trails.
The State is not closing Wildlife Management Areas or bike paths and people are permitted to walk and bicycle to state parks.
With COVID-19 “work from home”, “remote learning”, and “sheltering in place”, everyone is cooped-up and feeling stress, anxiety, and fear.
People naturally go to parks and other conservation lands and trails to find respite, relax and seek restoration.
We need these places now more than ever!
Thus, parks and land trust properties and trails are getting unprecedented visitation.
Parking lots are full and trails are busy.
From my experience walking many trails the past weeks, and reports from Council Board members, everyone on trails is doing a good job of being respectful of others and practicing social distancing.
Many land trusts and the RI Land Trust Council have seen this crisis as an opportunity to promote the importance of our land conservation work and encourage people to visit preserves and trails. It has been exciting to see many “new” people out walking. People who don’t normally get out on the trails. In March 2020, the ExploreRI website - with information about trails - had a 300 % increase in visitors over March 2019.
With state parks and some municipal parks closed, we anticipate that more people will head to land trust properties and trails to take walks.
Leaders from several land trusts have contacted RI Land Trust Council for guidance and asked if they should also close their properties and trails.
We solicited advice from land trusts in other states. What we learned is that only a few land trusts in other states located near urban areas and with a high number of visitors have closed their trails for safety. Many land trusts are posting signs asking people to maintain social distancing. Some land trusts are trying to prevent crowds by limiting parking at their trails.
The Council has developed guidance “How to Walk Outdoors Safely During COVID-19”
based on CDC guidance and the best science we could find.
It is attached to this email and posted on the ExploreRI website: https://exploreri.org/covid-19.htm
Please share this document or the link with your members and post it on your website and Facebook page.
Or you can use the content to write your own emails, Facebook and website posting.
The Council believes that it is important to let people know:
1. It is safe to take walks outdoors; and
2. Taking walks in nature is a great way to stay active and maintain our physical and mental health as we "shelter in place.”
Beyond health/safety information, our guidance encourages people to keep visits short so there is room for everyone to take walks.
We also ask people to not park on streets if lots are full.
We developed a “sign” version of this guidance that you can print and post at trail heads (also attached).
It has a lot of words so some land trusts are developing signs with fewer points.
The RI Land Trust Council encourages all land trusts to:
- post some guidance at your trailheads asking people to maintain social distancing of 6 feet (recommended by the CDC);
- keep in contact with your town administrator to collaborate with them on plans for giving residents safe places to take walks while maintaining public safety.
I hope this email and guidance document is helpful.
Please give me a call if you have questions or concerns or want to talk through ideas you have.