This episode of the show was written and hosted by Jason Epperson.
It’s back! National Parks are reopening and that means its time for another “News From the Parks” episode of the America’s National Parks Podcast, where we round up for you the latest info about happenings at America’s Greatest treasures.
As summer begins, the National Park Service is instituting phased reopenings at many parks across the country, allowing visitors various levels of access to amenities. Meanwhile, park officials, concessionaires, and, gateway communities are figuring out how to manage the influx of new travelers amidst a pandemic that is far from over.
The plan for the resumption of operations follows current CDC guidelines for disease prevention in public places and workspaces. It follows a phased approach to reopen park areas, beginning with outdoor spaces such as trails, boardwalks, observation decks, boat ramps, picnic areas, and other open landscapes. Park operations will be flexible, continually evaluated, and adjusted on a park-by-park basis.
As parks transition through phased reopening, park superintendents are coordinating with states, tribes, local governments, partners, concessionaires, and gateway communities to communicate about public health efforts.
More than two-thirds of the 419 units of the National Park System are available to visitors. But what “available” means is different everywhere.
Rangers at Arches & Canyonlands national parks came together to talk about the ways in which park visitors can visit responsibly:
Virtually all permits across the NPS system are only available for purchase online, and at many parks, you purchase park admission in advance.
At Rocky Mountain National Park, things have gone a bit further. In order to keep the crowds manageable, the park has implemented a timed entry reservation system. Each private vehicle entering the park will need a reservation for each day the vehicle will be in the park. The person making the reservation needs to be in the vehicle at the time of entry. Reservations are made through recreation.gov, and a $2.00 reservation fee is required, even for pass holders. Reservations are currentyly available through July 31, and will be available on a one-month rolling basis thereafter.
At most National Parks accross the country, accomodations like campgrounds and lodges have yet to re-open, but many plan to open soon. Yellowstone, for instance, will begin opening campgrounds on a staggered basis toward the end of June.
My family had the opportunity to visit Mesa Verde National Park this past week, and we found the situation painless and well-executed.
Upon arrival, the rangers had a virtual visitor center set up with information outside the closed physical visitor center. When driving into the park, the ranger at the gate asked us to read off the number on our park pass instead of taking it in hand to verify. And when we asked for a map, he handed it to us with a grabbing stick, He was also behind a plexiglass panel wearing a mask. As the driver with the window down, I wore a mask for his safety.
Hiking with a mask on isn’t the easiest thing, but we kept them around our necks for when we were near people on the trails. It was a short visit, we didn’t do anything strenuous, and mostly drove to scenic overlooks.
The situation at national parks is constantly changing. The best place for the most current info is each park’s website. There’s a COVID-19 header at the top of each one that you can click on for the latest info. Rangers and park staff are making a tremendous effort to provide a safe environment for all who visit. If you plan on heading to a national park this summer, make sure to return the favor.
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Today’s show was sponsored by L.L.Bean, follow the hashtag #beanoutsider, and visit LLBean.com to find great gear for exploring the National Parks.