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PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL: Get Outside Safely, Responsibly, and Locally

Play smart, safe, local

New York State launched the PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL campaign and encourage residents to engage in responsible recreation during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. New York State DEC and State Parks recommendations for getting outside safely incorporate guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health for reducing the spread of infectious diseases. PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL encourages New Yorkers to recreate locally, practice physical distancing, show respect for all outdoor adventurers, and use common sense to protect themselves and others.

See a video message from DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos and State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid on YouTube about getting outside safely and responsibly.

To support this effort, DEC and State Parks encourages visitors to New York's great outdoors and to use the hashtags #PlaySmartPlaySafePlayLocal, #RecreateResponsibly, and #RecreateLocal on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to share their visit and encourage others to get outside safely, responsibly, and locally, too. Use the DECinfo Locator to find a DEC-managed resource near you and visit the State Parks website for information about parks and park closures.

Take the Pledge to PLAY SMART * PLAY SAFE * PLAY LOCAL: Enjoy the Outdoors Safely and Responsibly

  1. I pledge to respect the rules and do my part to keep public spaces safe for everyone.
  2. I will stay local and close to home.
  3. I will maintain a safe distance from others outside of my household.
  4. I will wear a mask when I cannot maintain social distancing.
  5. I accept that I may have to adjust how I enjoy the outdoors to help keep myself and others healthy and safe, even if it means changing my plans to visit a public space.
  6. I will be respectful of others by letting them pass by me, if needed on a trail.
  7. I will move quickly through shared areas like parking lots, trailheads, and scenic areas to avoid crowding.
  8. If I'm not feeling well, I will stay home. ​

Getting outdoors to walk, jog, hike, ride a bicycle, fish, hunt, go horseback riding, go boating, or visit a park or state lands is a healthy way to stay active, spend time with immediate household and family members, and reduce stress and anxiety when practicing social distancing. While indoor spaces and restrooms at State Parks and DEC public facilities may be closed out of an abundance of caution to prevent community spread of COVID-19, many parks, grounds, forests, and trails are open during daylight hours, seven days a week. However, on a case-by-case basis, DEC and State Parks may close certain trails and areas to recreation if density pressures do not allow for appropriate social distancing.

New York is focused on getting people back to work and easing social isolation without triggering the further spread of COVID-19. Responsible, respectful, local recreation is a crucial part of continuing to help New Yorkers stay active, spend time with immediate household and family members, and reduce stress and anxiety.

What's local? New York is a large and geographically diverse state. DEC and State Parks encourage New Yorkers to recreate locally in their region (PDF). Each of the state's 10 REDC regions have a wide variety of recreational opportunities available within them for the public to explore and enjoy. New Yorkers getting outdoors should use common sense in planning outdoor activities because public facilities like restrooms or other amenities may not be available. Use the DECinfo Locator to find the DEC-managed resource near you or visit NYS Parks website for information about State Parks.

View a map of the 10 Regional Councils (PDF)

Click on the specific guidance below for more information about how to #RecreateLocal, safely and responsibly:

Guidance for Hikers (PDF)

Guidance for Anglers (PDF)

Guidance for Hunters (PDF)

Please note: State parks, lands, forests, and facilities are monitored by Park Police, Forest Rangers, Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs), and other staff. These parks, lands, forests, and facilities will incorporate physical distancing for visitors and staff to limit potential spread of COVID-19. In addition, these officers and staff respond to, and assist, local agencies with search and rescue missions, wildfire suppression, and more. Following these tips will prevent unnecessary burdens on, and dangers to, state resources and frontline emergency first responders during the ongoing COVID-19 response.

#AdventureAtHome: Looking for an at-home adventure? DEC features special #AdventureAtHome ideas on the web as well as on Facebook and Instagram. Check out Facebook and Instagram Live special events, videos, and at-home tools and games.

Outdoor Activities for Kids: Families with children at home during this time are encouraged to visit DEC's caregivers webpage to find activities to help explore nature and fun outdoor activities under "Kids G.O (Get Outside)" and "Nature Activities," plus lesson plans on a variety of topics for different grade levels in "Educator Lesson Plans" and "Hudson River Lesson Plans." In addition, students can read about nature in "Conservationist for Kids."

While enjoying outdoor spaces, please continue to follow the CDC/NYSDOH's guidelines for preventing the spread of colds, flu, and COVID-19:

  • Stay home if you are sick, or showing or feeling any COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, coughing, and/or troubled breathing;
  • Practice social distancing. Keep at least six (6) feet of distance between you and others even when outdoors;
  • Wear a mask when you cannot maintain social distancing;
  • Avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, and high-fives;
  • Wash hands often or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when soap and water are not available; and
  • Avoid unnecessary contact with surfaces that are often touched, such as doorknobs and handrails.

DEC and State Parks also encourage visitors to state parks and state lands, and other parks to:

  • Use common sense when visiting the outdoors. Stay local within your region (PDF) because some amenities like public restrooms and restaurants may not be open.
  • Visit in small groups limited to family members and members of your own household. Maintain a distance from others while in places where people tend to congregate, such as parking lots, trailheads, and scenic overlooks.
  • Know before you go. Plan ahead and make a list of alternate destinations. Trailheads will be busy. Many state land parking lots and parks will quickly reach capacity limits on nice weather days. Check parks.ny.gov, and 511.org for park capacity closure alerts.
  • Choose a time to visit when trails, and parks are likely to be less crowded, such as a weekday or earlier in the day.
  • Park responsibly in designated areas only.
  • Avoid games and activities that require close contact, such as basketball, football, or soccer.
  • Do not share equipment, such as bicycles, helmets, binoculars, balls, or Frisbees.
  • If parking lots are full, please do not park along roadsides or other undesignated areas. To protect your safety and that of others, please choose a different area to visit, or return another time or day when parking is available.
  • Practice 'Leave No Trace.' Respect parks and state lands and take out whatever you bring in, including disposable gloves, wipes, masks, and toilet paper.
  • Stay home if you're sick or if part of a vulnerable population.
  • Be patient. Accept that you may have to adjust how you enjoy the outdoors to help keep yourself and others healthy and safe, even if it means changing your plans to visit a public space.

New Yorkers over 70 years old or with a compromised immune system should not visit public spaces, including those outdoors. These New Yorkers should remain indoors or spend time in the backyard or other personal outdoor space, pre-screen visitors by taking their temperature, and require visitors to wear masks.

Visitors to the Adirondack and Catskill Parks are reminded to always follow the Hiker Responsibility Code and avoid busy trailheads. Find trails less traveled and visit when trails may not be as busy during daylight hours. DEC also encourages New Yorkers to be safe and sustainable when recreating outdoors. Learn more about how you can protect natural spaces when exploring outdoors by following the seven principles of Leave no Trace. Read additional information on hiking smart.


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