Joshua Tree, Arches, Canyonlands, and Glacier national parks have closed, becoming the latest protected lands to shut their gates in the face of the pandemic.
The closure of Joshua Tree in California is effective as of April 1, while Utah's Arches and Canyonlands are both closed as of March 28. In Montana, Glacier shut up shop the day prior, with park superintendent Jeff Mow saying in a statement, “The National Park Service listened to the concerns from our state, county, and tribal partners and, based on current health guidance, temporarily closed the park. We will continue to work with our state, county, and tribal partners as this crisis continues and we will coordinate with them on when it will be safe to reopen the park.” All for parks are closed indefinitely.
This latest round of closures follows last week's news that as of March 24, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Crater Lake national parks would be off-limits to the public until further notice. “We are committed to continued close coordination with our state and local partners as we progress through this closure period and are prepared when the timing is right to reopen as quickly and safely as possible,” Yellowstone superintendent Cam Sholly and Grand Teton acting superintendent Gopaul Noojibail said in a news release.
While many of the 419 sites in the National Park System have closed visitors’ centers and offices, a growing number have shut down entirely. Great Smoky Mountains National Park announced a partial closure of campgrounds, picnic areas, and restrooms on March 22, and two days later, a full closure through April 6.
As of March 20, Rocky Mountain and Yosemite national parks closed indefinitely, and Denali National Park & Preserve suspended its 2020 mountaineering season, putting a moratorium on climbing permits for expeditions to Denali or Mount Foraker. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island closed March 16, and the Washington Monument closed for tours March 14, though its grounds remain open.
Before the closures, state governments asked people to stay at home as much as possible, though they were quick to point out that brief forays into the outside world for fresh air and exercise were still permitted. Local, state, and national parks remained open, and restless residents took full advantage, often to the detriment of nearby communities.
“Our local population is 15% elderly, and we are still seeing thousands of out-of-town travelers,” Utah-based adventure photographer Abbi Hearne told Lonely Planet. “The reality is similar for most gateway towns to our national parks. Increased visitation in the name of social distancing is dangerous for these small towns as well as national park employees.”
This article was originally published on March 26, 2020 and updated on April 1, 2020.
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