Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

National Parks See More Visitors, Worrying Health Officials and Park Staff

Health + Wellness
National Parks See More Visitors, Worrying Health Officials and Park Staff
Visitors observe the Grand Canyon National Park in northwestern Arizona on May 11, 2013. Edwin Remsburg / VW Pics via Getty Images

With social distancing as the new norm and spring break plans canceled, many families and people finding themselves temporarily out of work are looking for a getaway that is both beautiful and isolating. They have found the U.S. national parks open and ready to welcome them, which have parks staff worried about exposure to the novel coronavirus, according to The Guardian.


Park workers have taken to social media to share photographs of crowded visitor centers and lines of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder as they wait to crowd onto shuttle buses, as The Guardian reported.

To take steps to minimize contact, some parks have started to close their visitor centers and have removed staff from the entrance gate where fees are collected, effectively making the park free to visitors. At Lake Mead National Recreation Area, the collection gate is unmanned and the park headquarters lobby is closed while the park remains open.

In Great Basin National Park, the visitor center is closed and cave tours are canceled, but park rangers are available to answer questions and distribute maps, according to the CBS Las Vegas affiliate.

In nearby Utah, local residents are visiting the national parks, making up for the absence of foreign visitors who have had their travel plans canceled by travel restrictions. However, some of the most popular attractions have been canceled, like the shuttle buses through Zion National Park, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Last week, the area around Zion actually saw an uptick in visitors. While the federal government is keeping national parks open, some local officials are trying to protect the people who live around the park. The Southeast Utah Health Department issued orders limiting tourist services to protect Moab, the gateway to Arches and Canyonlands national parks. The health department ordered businesses where people gather to close and only offer curbside, "no contact," service. It also banned nonlocals from checking into hotels or camping outside the park, as the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

"Moab is asking people to please stay in their home community," Mayor Emily Niehaus said, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. "This is an urgent message to people considering travel to Moab."

In the Grand Canyon, private companies are taking matters into their own hands. We proactively canceled all our trips," said Dave Logan, owner of Flagstaff, Arizona-based Four Season Guides, as The Guardian reported. "We decided to do it not only for the health of our guests but also for the health of our guides. We don't want them getting sick and then spreading the virus around in our community."

Some states are going the opposite way. New York, for example, which has declared a state of emergency, seems to be encouraging visits to state parks, keeping them open and waiving admissions fees in all state, local, and county parks, according to a statement from Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The U.S. National Park system has actually closed a few parks, but only in dense cities. They include the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the National Mall in Washington, DC, and the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York.

In an open letter released on Monday, an organization representing Park Service retirees called on the Department of the Interior to issue broader closures to protect the staff and the public, according to CNN.

In the letter, Chair Phil Francis of The Coalition to Protect America's Parks said that "to suggest to the public that gathering at national park sites is acceptable ... is irresponsible to the visiting public and employees," as CNN reported.

In an ad released by Republican Voters Against Trump, former coronavirus task force member Olivia Troye roasted the president for his response. Republican Voters Against Trump / YouTube

Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Climate Group

Every September for the past 11 years, non-profit the Climate Group has hosted Climate Week NYC, a chance for business, government, activist and community leaders to come together and discuss solutions to the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A field of sunflowers near the Mehrum coal-fired power station, wind turbines and high-voltage lines in the Peine district of Germany on Aug. 3, 2020. Julian Stratenschulte / picture alliance via Getty Images

By Elliot Douglas

The coronavirus pandemic has altered economic priorities for governments around the world. But as wildfires tear up the west coast of the United States and Europe reels after one of its hottest summers on record, tackling climate change remains at the forefront of economic policy.

Read More Show Less
Monarch butterflies in Mexico's Oyamel forest in Michoacan, Mexico after migrating from Canada. Luis Acosta / AFP / Getty Images

By D. André Green II

One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.

Read More Show Less
The 30th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony on Sept. 17 introduced ten new Ig Nobel Prize winners, each intended to make people "laugh then think." Improbable Research / YouTube

The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch