WA State reopens outdoor activities for safe recreation

Credit: National Park Service

After a long hibernation, residents of Washington State can expect to see a gradual return to the great outdoors. As part of Governor Jay Inslee’s first phase to reopen the state’s economy, many recreational activities will become available to citizens again. Starting May 5, our community can expect hunting, fishing and hiking to become accessible distractions from the pandemic. Municipal golf-courses will open too, but only for day-usage.

This new phase does not come without cautionary measures. Although people can now resume their hobbies outside, social distancing guidelines are still in place to combat the spread of COVID-19, a reminder of the greater issue at hand. While the news may be symbolic of good things to come, others are concerned with material shortages. For instance, sporting goods are wholly absent from storefronts. Daniel Postman, Inslee’s chief of staff, stated in a teleconference with reporters that, “This first step was to kinda let people out to recreate, and I suppose if they wanna recreate, and they don’t have any gear, they may have to wait or get it online.” Thankfully, “essential” workers at both Amazon and the U.S. Postal Service have continued to facilitate the delivery of online purchases.

Jill Simmons, CEO of the Washington Trails Association, made a statement regarding the recent reopening. “I’m really curious to see what folks are reporting in terms of their experiences out on trail[s] and how easy they felt it was to follow the rules and how much they felt others were doing their part as well,” Simmons posited. “I have to say that the majority of our community has been eager to understand what it looks like to do their part here, and to do it within the guidelines that land managers and we are providing.” She also went on to suggest that, “In general, what we’re saying to folks is if you have to use more than a tank of gas to get there and back, it’s probably too far.”

The WTA’s website has a page devoted to individually reported trail conditions, which has just recently seen a spike in activity. Many and varied are the reviews, but one common theme is that the wildflowers are blooming in full. Notwithstanding questionable road conditions, these trails are once again open to the public, and there is no better time to get out of the house (while observing a six-foot social distancing protocol for the time being).

Of all the newly available hiking trails, the one I recommend most often is Poo Poo Point. Seated on West Tiger Mountain near Issaquah, this hike is full of switchbacks, scenic views and atop it, a paragliding launch. There is no shame in walking back down as I do. As the WTA has warned, make sure to avoid crowded spaces during your time outside.

State parks, trail heads and fishing sites have become vastly repopulated when compared to last week’s relatively grim numbers. There are many new regulations which are designed to prevent unwarranted exchanges of germs, as golf courses will continue to enforce social distancing. Golf is very much a non-contact sport, and it is a great way to get out and enjoy the sunshine. Personally, the carpet in my living room can no longer withstand the brutality of my golf swing. Perhaps it is time to practice on some immobile golf balls, which are more elusive than they look. The plan to reopen the economy is underway, and regulators are watching carefully. Remember to wash your hands meticulously between excursions into nature.