Stress and anxiety can arise from COVID-19 isolation and social distancing, and across the country state agencies and health professionals have encouraged residents to get outside, take a walk and enjoy the outdoors.
But even when enjoying nature, some health precautions should still be followed, and it’s always a good idea to practice effective safety and prevention whenever possible. That’s the message from both the Missouri Department of Conservation and Missouri State Parks, which have issued similar guidance to visitors at parks, hiking trails and other areas that remain open.
“The sights and sounds of nature are needed now more than ever. Whether exploring trails by foot or by bike, physical activity is beneficial for both physical and mental health,” Missouri State Parks Director Mike Sutherland stated in a recent press release to visitors statewide. “While it is a great time to get outdoors, we need your help and commitment in making your visit as safe and enjoyable as possible.”
Both agencies urge visitors to follow these basic guidelines when outdoors:
— Continue physical distancing. If hiking or traveling on foot, maintain a distance of at least six feet from others, especially on trails.
— Pack water, soap or hand sanitizer with you when visiting outdoor areas and practice effective handwashing.
— Stay home if you are sick, have been sick within the past two weeks or have been exposed to others who are sick.
Additionally, MDC officials advise visitors to avoid crowded conservation areas and/or popular spots where people typically congregate, such as scenic overlooks, fishing docks, etc. If a conservation area looks crowded or the parking lot is full, visitors are advised to move along and find another, less-crowded location.
Visitors to parks, conservation areas and trails should also be aware of traffic where trails and paths cross roads and intersections. On its website, safety.army.mil, the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center recommends:
— Always walk or hike with a companion. Soldiers planning to walk should take a battle buddy; children should be supervised at all times along roads, trails and byways.
— Don’t assume vehicles are not around or that drivers can see you. Just because you’re hiking along a quiet trail doesn’t mean there isn’t traffic at the next intersection ahead. Just like along busier streets, hikers should look both ways before crossing intersections and use common sense.
— When walking along roads or other paved areas without sidewalks, walk facing traffic.
More info online
More information on outdoor safety is available online from the following sources:
— Missouri Department of Conservation COVID-19 updates on closures, cancellations, hunting and fishing seasons and more: mdc.mo.gov/about-us/mdc-covid-19-response.
— Missouri State Parks updates on COVID-19 measures: www.mostateparks.com/response.
— Outdoor safety tips from the USACRC: https://safety.army.mil/OFF-DUTY/Home-and-Family/Outdoor-Safety.
— COVID-19 safety tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.