National Parks Are Starting to Reopen in Phases — What to Know (Video)

The National Park Service “will continue to work with state and local officials as these changes are implemented.”

U.S. National Parks throughout the country are opening in stages, according to the National Parks Service.

New Jersey has decided to reopen its state parks on May 2 to activities like hiking, boating, and fishing, according to an executive order. Places like picnic areas, playgrounds, and restrooms, however, would remain closed.

Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park. Don Smith/Getty

“We understand that New Jerseyans want to get outside and get some fresh air as the weather warms up,” Governor Phil Murphy said in a statement. “However, this should not serve as an open invitation to rush back to normalcy and break the necessary social distancing measures we’ve put in place. This approach will also bring New Jersey in line with our neighboring states, which will discourage residents from needlessly crossing state lines for recreation.”

The reopening plans come after President Donald Trump promised earlier this week the parks would welcome visitors again.

According to the NPS, a portion of the road at Denali National Park in Alaska has reopened and plans to open even more of the park are in the works. This follows Alaska’s decision to start reopening businesses, limited restaurant operations, and retail stores on April 24.

Beginning May 6, Bryce Canyon will start allowing people to use the main park road and viewpoints to Rainbow Point as well as trails within the Bryce Amphitheater area, according to the NPS. In Utah, where the park is located, restaurants were allowed to reopen on May 1 for dine-in services while retail stores were allowed to open with customers and employees told to wear face masks, according to the state.

The roads and trails that were closed in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, will begin a phased reopening on May 9, the NPS noted. Areas like campgrounds and picnic pavilions will remain shuttered for at least two weeks.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park sits between North Carolina, which has a stay at home order in place, and Tennessee, which allowed restaurants to open at 50 percent capacity in 89 of 95 counties on April 27.

In all cases, reopening decisions would be made on an individual park basis and the NPS “will continue to work with state and local officials as these changes are implemented,” CNN noted.

At least one group will not be happy about people coming back to parks: the many animals who have taken advantage of the quiet and popped up in places they normally wouldn’t be found.

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