What To Do: Parks, shore reopening, but be careful

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Marsh Creek State Park

Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning of summer in this area. It is weekend that usually features picnics, camping, family gatherings, swimming, parties, hiking – a weekend to get outside to welcome summer.

The COVID-19 “shelter-in-place” situation has thrown a wrench in the works for a lot of these activities – but things are looking up because things are opening up.

Pennsylvania has 121 state parks, and 2.2 million acres of state forests. If visitors decide to come, they are being urged to do their part to make the experience a healthy and enjoyable one for themselves and others; and be prepared for limited staff and services.

The public can access trails, lakes, forests, roads, and parking areas for activities such as hiking if they are able to keep six feet away from others.

Boating and fishing are allowed if adhering to social distancing.

The Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has restricted use of its state parks and issued the following statement – “DCNR is undertaking a phased reopening of Pennsylvania state park and forest facilities in keeping with Governor Wolf’s guidance and direction.

“All DCNR lands including trails, lakes, rivers, streams, forests, roads, and parking areas are accessible statewide for recreation; however, the availability of facilities such as bathrooms, offices, and campgrounds varies.”

There are two state park sites in Chester County – Marsh Creek State Park and White Clay Creek Preserve.

Here is the updated information on both.

Marsh Creek State Park (675 Park Road, Downingtown, 610-458-5119).

Marsh Creek State Park is in the rolling hills of north central Chester County. The 1,784-acre park contains the 535-acre Marsh Creek Lake, which is a wonderful resource for fishing, sailing, and migrating waterfowl.

Restrooms: Open
Trails: Open
Pavilions: Closed
Picnic Groves: Closed
Swimming Pool: Closed
Equestrian Concession: Closed
Boating: Open
Boat Mooring: Open
Boat Launch: Open
Boat Rental Concession: Closed

White Clay Creek Preserve​ (405 Sharpless Road, Landenberg, 610-274-2900).

White Clay Creek Reserve

The 2,072-acre White Clay Creek Preserve is in southern Chester County, three miles north of Newark, Delaware. The White Clay Creek Valley, which forms the core of the preserve, varies from steep to gradually falling terrain with some flat bottomlands, all drained by the creek. White Clay Creek Preserve shares boundary with White Clay Creek State Park of Delaware.

Because White Clay Creek offers outstanding scenic, wildlife, recreational, and cultural value, it has been designated by Congress as a National Wild and Scenic RiverOpens In A New Window, and shall be preserved in free-flowing condition for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.

Restrooms: Open
Trails: Open
Park Office: Closed

Here is the up-to-date information in state parks on counties adjoining Chester County.

Delaware County

Ridley Creek State Park

Ridley Creek State Park

Restrooms: Open
Trails: Open
Park Office: Closed
Pavilions: Closed
Picnic Groves: Closed
Equestrian Concession: Closed
Group Tenting: Closed

Montgomery Count

Evansburg State Park

Restrooms: Open
Trails: Open
Park Office: Closed
Pavilions: Closed
Golf Course: Open
Group Tenting: Closed

Fort Washington State Park

Restrooms: Open
Trails: Open
Pavilions: Closed
Picnic Groves: Closed
Group Tenting: Closed

Norristown Farm Park

Restrooms: Open
Trails: Open

Berks County

French Creek State Park

Restrooms: Open
Trails: Open
Park Office: Closed
Amphitheater: Closed
Picnic Groves: Closed
Swimming Pool: Closed
Boating: Open
Boat Mooring: Open
Boat Launch: Open
Modern Cabins: Closed
Cottages: Closed
Yurts: Closed
Tent Camping: Closed
RV Camping: Closed
Group Cabins: Closed
Group Tenting: Closed

Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center

Restrooms: Open
Trails: Open
Park Office: Closed

William Penn State Forest

District Office: Closed
Picnic Areas: Closed
Primitive Camping: Open

Lancaster County

Susquehannock State Park

Restrooms: Open
Trails: Open
Pavilions: Closed
Group Tenting: Closed

All swimming beaches and pools in Pennsylvania state parks statewide will be closed until at least Friday, June 5 to slow the spread of COVID-19. All picnic pavilions, playgrounds, nature play areas, visitor center exhibit halls, amphitheaters, and group camping facilities statewide will remain closed indefinitely.

People who live in areas still under stay-at-home orders should not travel long distances for outdoor recreation, and instead should look for opportunities close to home. Pennsylvania has 6,000 local parks and more than 12,000 miles of trails.

Visitors can help keep state parks and forest lands safe by following these practices — avoid crowded parking lots and trailheads; bring a bag and either carry out your trash or dispose of it properly; clean up after pets; and refrain from activities that put you at greater risk of injury.

To help avoid exposure to COVID-19, protect others and still enjoy the outdoors — don’t hike or recreate in groups; wear a mask; take hand sanitizer with you and use it regularly; avoid touching your face, eyes, and nose; cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with a tissue or flexed elbow; if you are sick, stay home.

Locally, the Chester County Parks & Recreation posted the following somewhat similar message –

Black Rock Sanctuary

Playgrounds, pavilions, park offices, structures, and other amenities will be closed at all parks.

Parks and trails are open.

We look forward to seeing you at the parks, please ensure you are following these rules:

Come prepared with your face mask and hand sanitizer.

Practice physical distancing.  Keep six feet between you and others.

Enjoy walking, hiking and recreating only with members of your household.

If the parking lot is full, you will need to leave and visit us at another time.

If you are sick or experiencing any symptoms stay home.

Please take out anything you bring in.

Use the restrooms before you come to the park.

The list of Chester County parks includes Black Rock Sanctuary, Exton Park, Hibernia, Nottingham, Springton Manor Farm, Warwick and Wolf’s Hollow.

On May 20, Chester County Parks & Recreation posted the following on its Facebook page – “Today’s featured ChesCo park is Black Rock Sanctuary! Consisting of 119 acres of wetlands, woodlands and meadows, Black Rock Sanctuary is dedicated to wildlife habitat and public use. the Sanctuary offers a wonderful opportunity to relax and discover the history, geology, wildlife, plant life and habitats of the basin.”

Camping at Hibernia resumed on May 22 and reservation requests came pouring in – especially for this holiday weekend.

On May 19, Chester County Parks & Recreation posted the following on its Facebook page – “Good morning, Chester County! Please note, our Hibernia Campgrounds are officially at full capacity for Memorial Day Weekend (5/22 – 5/25) and no additional reservations will be accepted. Don’t worry, you can still enjoy some safe time outside this holiday weekend at one of our open parks. Learn more about park openings and hours: https://bit.ly/36eHrzU.”

Chester Valley Trail, Schuylkill Trail and Struble Trail remain open but are not staffed.

With regard to National Parks, there is one in Chester County — Hopewell Furnace National Historical Site in Elverson – and one close-by in Montgomery County – Valley Forge National Historical Park in Valley Forge.

Valley Forge National Historical Park is currently closed. This closure includes all park roads, parking lots, trails and open spaces. The regional Schuylkill River Trail remains open for through users; however, no access or parking is available within the park. Vehicles parked illegally will be ticketed. Vehicles that block emergency vehicle access (such as on roads or in front of gates) will be towed, as they present a serious safety hazard.

According to the park office – “We are in a rapidly changing situation and we continue to follow guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local health authorities and in consultation with NPS Public Health Officials. Check the park’s website and social media for the latest information. Updates about the NPS response to #COVID19 will continue to be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus. For up to date information about the disease and information on how to protect yourself, please visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/summary.html.”

Hopewell Furnace

The most recent post on the Hopewell Furnace site is – “Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health authorities in consultation with NPS Public Health Service Officers, the park will temporarily close beginning March 18 in response to the COVID-19 or coronavirus.”

Similar messages remain on the websites of the National Park locations in Philadelphia – Independence National Historical Park, Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, Gloria Dei National Historical Site, and Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site. They all closed in mid-March and have no dates listed for re-opening.

The following post from Philadelphia Parks & Recreation was issued on May 21 –

Memorial Day means summer is almost here. Most years, the holiday means picnics, block parties, and BBQs with friends and family. To protect the health of our loved ones, and fellow Philadelphians, we have to celebrate differently this year.

Please remember that Philadelphia is under a Stay at Home order. Residents must stay home as much as possible to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Barbecues, large picnics, and group gatherings are not permitted at this time.

Here’s some guidance on how to safely enjoy the holiday weekend and to keep yourself and others healthy:

Wash your hands for 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

Maintain six feet of distance from those outside your household.

Don’t plan to socialize or meet friends.

Keep a mask with you at all times. Be sure to wear it if you are within 6 feet of others.

If you head to a park for exercise and fresh air over the holiday weekend, please:

Visit on your own or with members of your household.

Go to your neighborhood park if there is one close by.

Park your vehicle in designated parking areas only. Do not drive or park on the grass.

If you need to rest, find a space away from others. Use all available park space. Don’t crowd the most popular spots. Find a quiet corner.

Limit park your visits to 60 to 90 minutes to allow others to use our limited park space.

Try not to touch commonly touched objects like benches and handrails.

Bring a water bottle to stay hydrated. Water fountains are not available.

Don’t take part in group sports.

Don’t use playgrounds or outdoor exercise equipment.

Keep your dog on its leash. The standard leash is six feet long. This helps maintain safe distance between pet owners. It’s also the law!

Be sure to follow park rules. These rules are enforced by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and the Philadelphia Police Department.

In addition to the national, state and county parks in the area, there are many parks operated by local municipalities. To find out what they allow and what their restrictions are, contact them directly.

For many people in the Delaware Valley, going “down the shore” (visiting a beach in New Jersey) on Memorial Day Weekend is an annual rite.

Cape May

Last week, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that beaches will be open in time for Memorial Day Weekend.

Here is a look at regulations you will find at South Jersey beaches this weekend:

Atlantic City — The beaches and boardwalk remain open and will continue to do so as long as individuals practice social distancing.

Avalon — The Avalon Boardwalk will open on May 22. Passive recreation including beach chairs, blankets and sunbathing are permissible. Families who come to the beach are required to remain at least six feet apart from other blankets and chairs.

Brigantine — All beaches will be open for recreational activities, swimming and sunbathing. Families are permitted to congregate in groups of up to 10 people. All beachgoers are asked to wear masks.

Cape May — Sitting and sunbathing will be permitted at all beaches starting May 22. Swimming and dogs on the beaches are not allowed.

Margate City — Sunbathing will be permitted at all beaches beginning May 22. Large gatherings are prohibited.

Ocean City — The Ocean City Beach Patrol will begin guarding 10 beaches this weekend. Groups of 10 or more are prohibited. The boardwalk is open for walking, running, bicycling and for access to takeout food.

Sea Isle City — The beaches are open, but visitors must maintain a social distance of at least six feet from others (except immediate family and household members) at all times while on the beach and promenade.

Stone Harbor — Beaches will be open to all residents and visitors for passive and active purposes, which now include the use of beach chairs and blankets. Organized games, contact sports, sports camps and special events are prohibited on the beach.

Ventnor — Beaches will open for sunbathing on May 23 and the boardwalk will reopen on May 22. Swimming at guarded beaches will be allowed. Surfing and paddle boarding are also permitted but gathering in groups of 10 or more on the beach is not.

Wildwood – The beach is open for sunbathers and other recreational activities, and the boardwalk is open for walking, biking and running. Essential businesses on the boardwalk are open for takeout, curbside pickup and delivery only.

Wildwood Crest — Beach visitors must remain at least six feet apart (except for family and household members). Groups at the beaches must be limited to 10 or fewer people.

The good news is that there are outdoor activities available now. Enjoy them and realize that they are a privilege not a right considering the pandemic situation. Don’t abuse this privilege. Follow the guidelines. Act with respect. Honor the three main commandments – wash your hands, maintain social distancing and wear a mask. Have fun – and don’t forget to wear sunblock.

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