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State Parks welcoming county residents as part of Governor's directive

Posted at 9:58 PM, Mar 29, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — Since COVID-19 made its way into Utah, increased restrictions and guidelines have been put in place by the Utah Coronavirus Task Force to ensure safety and prevent spread.

Governor Gary Herbert announced a 'Stay Safe, Stay Home' directive last week which allows some leeway for outdoor recreation.

Parks around the state have been flooded with park guests over the past few weeks, however, the directive will likely change the amount or at least the consistency of some visitors.

"State parks remain open only to visitors residing in the same county where the state park is located," a statement reads on the Utah State Parks website.

Park Managers at State Parks throughout Utah have seen drastic increases over the past few weeks but want to ensure visitors they are aware of the directive in place.

"It's a great way to get out and get some fresh air and have some social distance that you can't get in your living room," said Jon Allred, Park Manager of Gunlock State Park, located on the western side of Washington County. "We really want to follow the Governor's directive and encourage people to follow the Governor's directive to stay in their own county to recreate."

The directive asks county residents to visit parks strictly within their own area. In Washington County, there is a good chance park visitors will have license plates that don't necessarily reflect the state of Utah.

"You might see a parking lot that has Idaho plates and Alberta, Canada plates," said Allred to Fox13 on Sunday. "Really, it looks like they're from out of state but they're residents of Washington County." Allred says a lot of seasonal residents of Washington County are staying local and typically visit parks in the area with some of their visual out-of-state representation. Gunlock State Park is popular during the spring, notably when the reservoir overflows and the iconic 'Gunlock Falls' can be easily hiked to.

"If we see groups of people we'll mention 'hey can we please spread out' or 'can you be patient with other groups,'" said Allred about the more populated spots in the park. "I'm impressed with how patient people are being and understanding that you know if you need to give people some space to see an area, they can do it."

Meanwhile in northern Utah, Antelope Island State Park is coming off a very busy past few weeks. Park workers estimate between 2,000 and 2,500 carloads of visitors on Saturday's and Sunday's in mid-March.

"We're all kind of stretched pretty thin right now trying to do a really busy gate and a really busy park with about ten employees," said Wendy Wilson, Assistant Park Manager at Antelope State Park. Wilson says once people have gotten through the gate, they've been able to spread out throughout the park. "Generally we see visitors from all across the Wasatch Front but right now we're mainly seeing folks from Davis County."

The directive from Governor Herbert only permits residents from Davis County to visit one of the Utah's busiest parks. Wilson sees this as a good opportunity for residents who may have not been to the park before.

"If you're used to kind of going to a certain place that you've been asked not to go to right now, then there's the opportunity for you to discover new gems in your own county and your own neighborhood," she said. Parks have not been asked to check for valid identification to check for proper addresses of visitors. "We're asking for folks to kind of self-police that and just thinking about the good of the whole community," Wilson said.

Park managers are asking those visiting local parks to practice social distancing and use the methods of #ResponsibleRecreation.

"This means: separating yourself and honoring the social distance of others, avoiding crowded trailheads and areas; and keeping parks and facilities clean," a definition reads on the Utah State Parks website.

To learn about parks, fees, facilities, and to keep up with the changes due to COVID-19, click here.