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For Release: Friday, May 22, 2020

DEC Encourages New Yorkers to Get Outside Safely, Responsibly, and Locally During State's Ongoing Response to COVID-19

New Yorkers Encouraged to Discover Outdoor Spaces Close to Home

DEC, State, and Local Partners Prepare for Busy Weekend in Adirondack High Peaks, Taking Steps to Reduce Density

Prior to the start of the Memorial Day Holiday Weekend, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today encouraged New Yorkers to engage in responsible recreation close to home during the State's ongoing response to COVID-19. DEC recommendations 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 and encourage New Yorkers to recreate locally, practice physical distancing, show respect, and use common sense to protect themselves and others. DEC is implementing additional measures at its facilities statewide, particularly in high use areas such as the Adirondacks High Peaks to reduce density and help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect natural resources.

"New York State is deploying a comprehensive response to the COVID-19 public health crisis and we want to help ensure that measures and guidelines in place to prevent the spread of the virus continue to protect New Yorkers enjoying the outdoors," said Commissioner Seggos. "DEC is encouraging visitors to New York's natural resources to get outside to recreate locally, practice physical distancing, show respect, and use common sense to protect themselves and others this weekend and throughout the summer season. Special steps are being undertaken to reduce density at DEC sites and lands where we expect big crowds during the holiday weekend, and we encourage visitors to check our website for any site-specific updates or restrictions."

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. Consistent with the NYForward (leaves DEC's website) phased reopening plan, DEC is encouraging New Yorkers to recreate locally in their region (PDF) (leaves DEC's website). Each of the state's 10 REDC regions (leaves DEC's website) 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. DEC is also encouraging New Yorkers visiting the outdoors to use the hashtag #RecreateLocal when sharing photos on social media. Use the DECinfo Locator to find the DEC-managed resource near you and visit DEC's website for more information.

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.
  • 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.

For the safety of all visitors and to reduce the community spread of COVID-19, DEC and State Parks have taken these steps to reduce public density:

  • All playgrounds are closed until further notice;
  • All public programs and events at state parks, lands, forests and facilities are canceled until further notice;
  • All indoor visitor facilities, such as nature centers, environmental education centers, visitor centers, and historic houses are closed to the public until further notice;
  • DEC-controlled fire towers are closed to the public until further notice. Trails and the summits to the towers remain open, but the towers themselves present a potential risk with multiple people climbing the stairs, in close quarters, unable to appropriately socially distance, and using the same handrails;
  • Limiting parking. The number of available parking spaces may be reduced on high visitation days. Please avoid visiting crowded areas. For visitor safety and the safety of others, do not park on roadsides and only park in designated parking areas;
  • Camping & Pavilion/Shelters: All campsite, cabin, cottage and pavilion/shelter reservations are canceled through May 31. All visitors will be issued a full refund. All new camping and pavilion/shelter reservations for the 2020 season have been suspended until further notice. For more information visit NYS Parks website and DEC's website. DEC and New York State Parks have temporarily lifted the nine-month reservation window restriction for camping and will allow for transfers of existing camping reservations into the 2021 season. If you choose to transfer, the change fee will be waived until June 11th for online transactions only. In addition, you may also make new reservations for the 2021 season at this time. Please note that there is no guarantee that you will get the same camping site or dates for 2021 whether you transfer or make a new reservation. We encourage online reservations as the Call Center is experiencing longer than average wait times.
  • Temporarily suspend all overnight camping on this list of state lands;
  • Temporarily stop issuing permits for backcountry camping for groups of 10 or more, and for more than 3 days at one location on state lands;
  • Temporarily restricting lean-to- use to members of a single household at a time;
  • Temporarily closing Kaaterskill Falls, the viewing platform, and connecting trails beginning Monday, April 6. The Kaaterskill Wild Forest will remain open to the public;
  • Temporarily closing Croton Gorge Unique Area beginning Friday, May 22;
  • Boat Launches and Marinas: Marinas and boat launch sites are open where conditions allow. Call the park or regional office (leaves DEC's website) directly for current status; and
  • Beaches and Swimming: DEC's Lake George Beach/Million Dollar Beach will open for the Memorial Day holiday beginning Saturday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with a maximum of 500 people allowed and parking capacity reduced to 150 vehicles. DEC is also temporarily restricting all access to the nearby strip of state land on the south shore of Lake George known as Dog Beach.

In addition, DEC and its partners will be undertaking additional efforts as part of a comprehensive plan to ensure the safety of motorists, hikers, and High Peaks communities while managing use around some of the busiest trailheads during the Memorial Day Holiday Weekend. Steps include:

  • An increased presence of New York State Police and DEC Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation Police Officers on State Route 73 and other roads. Parking regulations will be strictly enforced;
  • Forest Rangers, Assistant Forest Rangers, and Trailhead Stewards will be educating hikers on face masks, social distancing, and other practices used to prevent the spread of COVID-19;
  • The shuttle between the Marcy Field Parking Lot and the Garden Trailhead is not operating;
  • The Adirondack Mountain Reserve (aka Ausable Club) reduced the parking capacity on its lot near the intersection of Ausable Road and State Route 73 to a maximum of 28 vehicles in response to COVID-19. Parking is not permitted along Ausable Road, on Ausable Club lands, or along the nearby stretches of State Route 73;
  • The Adirondack Mountain Club will begin staffing the parking booth and the High Peaks Information Center starting May 22 (leaves DEC's website) to manage increases in visitation at the Adirondak Loj Trailhead;
  • Visitors should use the High Peaks Rest Area before getting off exit 30 of the Northway. No portable toilets are installed along the Route 73 Corridor; and
  • Electronic variable messaging boards and other signs will be placed on I-87 and Route 73 to advise motorists about limited trailhead parking, closures, and to seek alternative trails.

DEC is encouraging Adirondack hikers to seek out nearby alternative hikes, that provide an experience similar to a High Peaks hike, including great scenic views, but with fewer people. DEC also encourages all hikers to Hike Smart NY and follow the seven principles of Leave No Trace while hiking (leaves DEC's website).

DEC also announced that its Adventure NY program is going virtual. As part of #AdventureAtHome, DEC will be preparing weekly content for inspiration on how to enjoy the outdoors close to home. DEC will kick off the first week of #AdventureAtHome on Tuesday May 26, at 10 a.m. with a special Facebook live event with our expert I Fish NY staff who will share tips and tricks to get started fishing no matter where you live in New York State. Visit DEC's website to learn more about #AdventureAtHome.

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