Safely getting outdoors has never been more important

Safely getting outdoors has never been more important.

During the current public health crisis, getting outdoors close to home and connecting with nature is an excellent way to help maintain mental and physical health.

While engaging in favorite outdoor recreation activities, the State of Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation reminds everyone to help stop the spread of COVID-19 by continuing to practice effective social distancing and other measures while outside.

The Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” directive still allows enjoyment of Vermont’s outdoors. The department recommends these safety tips.

• Enjoy nature close to home. Walk on your street or a local wood lot as opposed to hopping in the car to visit a favorite spot. Take advantage of nearby fishing holes and bird watching spots, and if you must drive someplace to enjoy nature, drive by yourself or with immediate family members only and try to limit your trip to 10 miles or less.

• Don’t crowd. Stay at least six feet away from others when in a public setting, including the outdoors. Outdoor crowding is not any better than indoor crowding. In addition, only go outside if you are feeling healthy.

Wash hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If those are not available, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. Avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs, handrails and playground equipment.

• Keep dogs on a leash. They are members of your household and need to keep their social distance as well. Most standard leashes are six feet in length.

• Engage in low risk activities. Now is not the time to try something extreme and end up in the hospital, taxing an already overburdened health care system.

The department recommends their website’s Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge, which provides additional ideas for outdoor activities and is a great way for kids to learn about their environment.

Although facilities like restrooms at many areas are currently closed, people are still welcome to enjoy state parks, state forests and wildlife management areas. Follow common sense behaviors including honoring all signage, treating public areas with respect and giving people space at gathering points like parking areas. As it is Mud Season, avoid shared trails when they are wet and highly vulnerable to real and lasting damage.

To date, Vermont State Parks are planning to be fully operational later this spring and early summer according to their regular schedule. Some modifications to programs and services may be expected to ensure the safety and health of park visitors and staff. Visit vtstateparks.com for regular updates.

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