Go Outdoors Safely: When, where you go keeps you socially distant

Go Outdoors Safely: When, where you go keeps you socially distant

It’s the Easter season, and what better way to celebrate spring and all things cute than by going outdoors to look for baby bunnies and nests filled with gorgeous colored eggs — without even having to dye them yourself! But social distancing applies outside, too.

Parks, trails and outdoor public spaces can be crowded. At the time of this writing, Devil’s Den State Park is experiencing a high volume of visitors. Area lakes are moderately crowded. The Botanical Garden of the Ozarks is closed temporarily, but Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs is open noon to 6 p.m. daily. The Razorback Greenway is packed with people biking, walking, jogging, and yes, coughing. Playground equipment is being roped off in some areas. Tennis courts are closed, and basketball hoops have been taken down in some parks. The police and park rangers are out enforcing social distancing.

You can and should get exercise outdoors at this time, but consider your options. We tend to have boxes in our minds about where and when to go to get exercise: gym, park and so on. But any public outdoor space is acceptable as long as you follow posted rules and practice social distancing.

Can you visit a park or a trail at off-peak hours? If trails are less crowded, risk is minimized. Some people use head lamps to jog or bike at night. Fun fact: Some people in the United States are averse to rain, but in other countries, it is perfectly normal to go outside when it’s raining. Why not bring the umbrella and enjoy a spring shower or two? When I was commuting on foot for many years in Fayetteville, many neighborhoods were devoid of people using sidewalks. I almost never passed another person. Find a neighborhood near you where you can walk the roads without crowds. It’s fun to see other people’s gardens and yards! County roads are great for wildlife viewing, and you probably won’t encounter another soul. What about large empty parking lots at all these closed universities, malls and shopping centers? Some of these areas also have really nice empty sidewalks; I’ve used them often. Visit an outdoor exhibit on history or ecology at a park — a great educational opportunity for kids out of school.

Tips for practicing social distancing at parks and outdoor public spaces:

Avoid touching surfaces touched by many people.

Be prepared for the bathrooms to be closed.

Bring your own water bottles. Don’t use drinking fountains.

Keep children off playground equipment, because the virus can live on hard surfaces like plastic.

Don’t use sports facilities that encourage contact, such as courts.

Cover your cough and sneeze into your elbow.

Wash hands frequently.

Stay 6 feet away from people to avoid transmitting the virus.

Give others plenty of room to pass you on trails.

Visit less popular, lesser-known parks and trails first. Avoid crowded areas.

Before you leave, go online and check for updates at ArkansasStateParks.com/covid-19-update#parks

Amanda Bancroft is a writer, artist, and naturalist living in an off-grid tiny house on Kessler Mountain. She and her husband Ryan blog about their adventures and offer tips to those wanting to make a difference at www.RipplesBlog.org.

Categories: Making Ripples