As of this week, new signs will greet visitors at state parks, wildlife areas and recreation lands around the state with guidance on how to “recreate responsibly” during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are installing nearly 400 signs in English and Spanish at popular recreation areas.
These signs feature tips developed by the Recreate Responsibly Coalition.
Land managers are seeing an increase in visits to state public lands compared to previous years leading to health and safety concerns.
REI Co-op, a founding member of the Recreate Responsibly Coalition, funded the sign creation.
“We are thrilled to partner with REI to share the message that we’re all in this together as we battle to slow and stop the spread of this pandemic, including while we’re enjoying our public lands,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “This is our collective effort to educate recreationists on the importance of taking precautions while out on the trail or at the local park. We know how critical our lands are to residents during this unprecedented time. We just ask that they enjoy them responsibly.”
The Recreate Responsibly Coalition first released their outdoor recreation tips in May as parks, beaches, and recreation areas started to reopen around the state.
The recreate responsibly tips follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, state and local public health professionals, and recreation experts. Over the summer, the coalition added a new foundational principle, calling on outdoor enthusiasts to do their part to help build a safe and welcoming outdoor for all identities and abilities. The seven guidelines are:
- Know Before You Go: Check the status of the place you want to visit. If it is closed, don’t go. If it’s crowded, have a backup plan.
- Plan Ahead: Prepare for facilities to be closed, pack lunch, and bring essentials like hand sanitizer and a face covering.
- Explore Locally: Limit long-distance travel and make use of local parks, trails, and public spaces. Be mindful of your impact on the communities you visit.
- Practice Physical Distancing: Keep your group size small. Be prepared to cover your nose and mouth and give others space. If you are sick, stay home.
- Play It Safe: Slow down and choose lower-risk activities to reduce your risk of injury. Search and rescue operations and health care resources are both strained.
- Leave No Trace: Respect public lands and communities and take all your garbage with you.
- Build an Inclusive Outdoors: Be an active part of making the outdoors safe and welcoming for all identities and abilities.
“Some of our most treasured areas have seen an unprecedented amount of use this summer,” said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind. “We’re glad to see so many people enjoying the outdoors and visiting public lands, and we’re asking everyone to play their part to protect our natural resources and local communities so these areas can remain open.”
“Our public lands belong to everyone, and everyone has a role to play in keeping them safe and pristine,” said State Parks Director Don Hoch. “These guidelines serve as a reminder of our shared responsibility in maintaining our state’s most treasured places.”
“The Recreate Responsibility Coalition is working to reach all Washingtonians who love the outdoors and seek nature to reflect and recharge,” said Taldi Harrison, REI community and government affairs manager. “The new signs will serve as an important reminder as people start their adventure or moment of solitude that their actions will keep them healthy while helping to maintain open access to parks, trails, and beaches.”
The Recreate Responsibly Coalition is a newly formed partnership of nonprofits, outdoor businesses, and land managers developing and sharing best practices to protect each other and our natural landscapes. We are a diverse community brought together by our love of the outdoors and a desire to help everyone experience the benefits of nature safely during this public health crisis.
To learn more, visit recreateresponsibly.org.