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Sand Hollow State Park overwhelmed by visitors after COVID-19 restrictions lifted

Posted at 4:17 PM, Apr 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-26 02:26:03-04

HURRICANE, Utah — Just over a week after it was announced that most of Utah's state parks would reopen to the public, Sand Hollow State Park had to start turning people away early Saturday afternoon due to a major influx of visitors.

It was announced April 17 that many state parks would reopen, after weeks of being limited to only in-county residents to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Some remained closed or limited to only in-county residents based on local public health orders.

“This is a complete collapse of coronavirus physical distance protocol,” Hurricane resident Carl Downing said.

Saturday, Sand Hollow announced that park employees started turning away visitors at 1 p.m. due to completely full parking areas both on the beach and boating areas. Those with reservations for camping were and are still being allowed in, but all others were turned away.

“They closed it. They put cones in front of it and wouldn’t let us in. So we just had to park out on the street and walk in,” park visitors Jane Dickson and Hailey Burbuch said.

Officials said they expect a similar sized crowd Sunday.

“We estimate that when we are full, we can have probably 2,500 cars," park manager Jonathan Hunt said. “Today we kind of just hit our limit.”

Hunt says the park didn't turn anyone away in 2019. But when the park closed a few weeks ago, they saw a "mad rush" of people wanting and even attempting to enter the park.

"They weren’t sure what we were doing, they weren’t sure what their options were to access the park," he said. "A lot of them were parking and walking in. Sometimes people were trying to jump fences where they shouldn’t.”

Many people were willing to walk more than a mile to enjoy the park.

“It’s a really warm day, so it’s just nice to be in the water,” said Zachery Holmes, who lives in Salem.

When asked about social distancing, most people who FOX 13 News spoke to said that wasn’t something people were focused on.

“They are pretty much all together. No social distancing,” said Gavin Cregger, who lives in Syracuse.

The long lines and crowded park had people in the area like Downing concerned as he drove by.

“If you were to look at Sand Hollow Reservoir, you would never know that we have this COVID-19 world going on right now,” he said.