Now that Gov. Tim Walz has ordered bars, restaurants, gyms, theaters and other public businesses to close, heading to the woods may offer the best chance to leave the house for entertainment and fresh air.
For people with cabin fever — but not an actual fever — the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says it’s OK to visit state parks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The DNR said Monday it will keep its parks, recreation areas, campgrounds and other public lands open for the time being. “Now is a great time to get outdoors,” commissioner Sarah Strommen said in a news release. “Parks are a great place to do some social distancing and enjoy the health benefits of nature.”
Long walks or runs outside are encouraged as long as you maintain a six-foot distance between you and others, according to Harvard’s Coronavirus Resource Center.
Still, not all services will be available at state parks. Visitor centers and other buildings are closed until further notice, and people should pay entry fees through kiosks at each facility or by buying park passes online before they visit. Naturalist programs are canceled for further notice.
The DNR says bathrooms, vault toilets and shower buildings that are still open will stay open. Though they will have “increased cleaning protocols,” the agency news release says.
While some national parks have closed due to the coronavirus, such as the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in California, the Washington Monument and the Statue of Liberty National Monument, Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness remain open.
The National Park Service posted on its website to follow CDC guidance at parks, and said staff is “working to maintain clean and healthy facilities in parks.”
In Minneapolis, the Loppet Foundation said Monday it’s encouraging people to use its parks, and staff expects to keep grooming ski trails at Theodore Wirth Regional Park through “at least” March 22, according to an email sent to supporters. The foundation isn’t charging fees for skiing for the remainder of the season, either. The Loppet will be closing its Trailhead building through at least March 27 and not leading groups or coaching.
When asked if the DNR has experienced crowding at parks or is worried about it, spokesman Chris Niskanen said: “State parks were a popular option this past weekend for people hoping to enjoy nature and adopt social distancing measures as suggested by state health officials.”