Instead of being cooped up by COVID-19, many in NC escaping to parks, trails

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — As schools and businesses remain closed amid COVID-19, more and more people are heading outside. However, officials say not everyone is following guidelines to stay healthy.

New restrictions set by state and county leaders have closed playgrounds and some state parks to help maintain social distancing.

Kate, who took her dog Ellie on a hike in Umstead State Park Monday, said she’s been trying to get outside every day.

“Definitely taking advantage of the open space so I can get some exercise and keep some sanity during these crazy times where we have to be apart from each other anyway,” she said.

Umstead State Park’s trails are open, but its bathrooms and visitors centers are closed.

The North Carolina Director of State Parks on Sunday announced the closure of all bathrooms, visitors centers, offices, campground areas, and picnic shelters at parks statewide.

In a message posted online, officials said several parks saw double the number of visitors over the same weekend last year.

Some parks are completely closed “due to counties in State of Emergency and continued crowding at several parks that does not adhere to social distancing guidelines,” officials said in a statement.

Those closures include Crowders Mountain State Park, Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, Fort Macon State Park, Hanging Rock State Park, Jockey’s Ridge State Park (open to local residents), Lake Waccamaw State Park, and Raven Rock State Park.

In Wake County, officials ordered all public and private playgrounds to close Monday.

“This new step prevents adults and children from sharing germs and breaking social distancing guidelines as they play,”  said Wake County Manager David Ellis. 

Wake County leaders stressed greenways and trails are still open for running, walking and biking.

“If it’s crowded just give the crowd time to move out of your way. We want people to use our greenways and trails and to get that fresh air that’s also good for their mental health,” said Regina Petteway, Director of Wake County Human Services.

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