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Coronavirus affects lives of outdoor enthusiasts, too

One thing is certain about life in the coronavirus world, and that’s change. Impacts of the coronavirus and the efforts being made to contain it have reached deep into our lives.

And those changes continue, sometimes at a pace so fast that we might have trouble making the necessary adjustments to accommodate them. For outdoor enthusiasts, the past week has been one of significant change.

A week ago, Nevada’s State Parks remained open to visitors with limited services. Programs and events were canceled, and some physical facilities were closed, but campgrounds remained open with restrictions.

At the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, visitors saw a similar reduction in services and programs, but the reservoirs and open spaces were still available.

Today, however, neither of those situations remains the same.

Campgrounds at all of Nevada’s state parks have been closed until further notice. The state parks will remain open for day-use only.

After almost 40,000 people packed into the Lake Mead National Recreation Area on Saturday — and in response to Nevada Declaration of Emergency Directive 003 issued by Gov. Steve Sisolak — the National Park Service made additional adjustments to its COVID-19 plans, too.

All recreation area facilities, restrooms, public beaches, picnic areas, parking areas, roads and launch ramps in Nevada were closed Monday. And any closures announced before then are still in effect.

“Bicyclists, hikers and people who walk in may still enter and use the trails,” wrote Christie Vanover, public information officer for the Lake Mead NRA, in an email. “Currently, the park and facilities in Arizona remain open, with the exception of White Rock Canyon and Arizona Hot Spring Trail. We are consulting with the governor of Arizona to determine the next steps for our locations in that state.”

It will be interesting to see what happens on the Arizona side of Lake Mead and Lake Mohave. Further changes could be in the offing.

As a frequent visitor to the Lake Mead NRA, I asked Vanover if any certain user groups were doing things to violate social distancing guidelines. Perhaps I was looking for someone to blame or a reason to vent my frustration. Maybe I was even expecting a finger to be pointed in my direction as an angler. But none of these was the case.

Vanover said the additional closures were not the result of the behavior of any one user group or activity, but she did point out that the 40,000 people who visited the recreation area Saturday were nearly double the normal visitation for a March weekend.

I didn’t see the crowd, but I spent enough years patrolling Lake Mead on busy holiday weekends that I can envision major violations of coronavirus guidelines occurring. Those guidelines, along with Emergency Directive 003, call for a minimum of separation of 6 feet between individuals and gatherings no larger than 10 people.

“The NPS is taking extraordinary steps to implement the latest guidance from state and local authorities, which support the Centers for Disease Control Prevention’s efforts to promote social distancing and slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. These changes in operations were made to support those efforts,” Vanover wrote.

Coronavirus-related closures and restrictions are also in place at U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management facilities. The are generally associated with physical facilities such as restrooms, parking lots and buildings where people might congregate.

For outdoor enthusiasts experiencing signs of cabin fever, these changes and the limitations they bring are going to be a challenge. Perhaps this is an opportunity to take up a new outdoor hobby that can be done at home, such as lure making or fly-tying. Or maybe we can make an inventory of the items in our gear boxes or repair those items that have been needing our attention for a while.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column is not affiliated with or endorsed by NDOW. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com.

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