DEC and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) are encouraging New Yorkers to engage in responsible recreation during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. DEC and State Parks recommendations incorporate guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health for reducing the spread of infectious diseases and encourage New Yorkers to recreate locally, practice physical distancing, and use common sense to protect themselves and others. In addition, DEC and State Parks launched a new hashtag-#RecreateLocal-and encouraged New Yorkers to get outside and discover open spaces and parks close to home. Use DECinfo Locator to find a DEC-managed land nearest you.
Getting outdoors to walk, jog, hike, ride a bicycle, fish, or visit a park or state lands is a healthy way to stay active, spend time with immediate household family members, and reduce stress and anxiety when practicing social distancing. While indoor spaces and restrooms at State Parks and DEC’s public facilities may be closed out of an abundance of caution to prevent community spread of COVID-19, many parks, grounds, forests, and trails are open during daylight hours, seven days a week.
State parks, lands, forests, and facilities are monitored by Park Police, Forest Rangers, Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) and other staff. These parks, lands, forests, and facilities and visitors will incorporate physical distancing to limit potential spread of COVID-19. In addition, these officers and staff respond to, and assist, local agencies with search and rescue missions, wildfire suppression, and more. Following this guidance (PDF) will prevent unnecessary burdens on, and dangers to, state resources and frontline emergency first responders during the ongoing COVID-19 response.
For the safety of all visitors and to reduce the community spread of COVID-19, DEC and State Parks are undertaking steps to reduce public density:
Closing all playgrounds, athletic courts, and sporting fields until further notice;
Canceling all public programs and events at state parks, lands, forests and facilities until further notice;
Closing all indoor visitor facilities, such as nature centers, environmental education centers, visitor centers, and historic houses to the public until further notice;
Golf courses: Starting Saturday, April 25, golf courses operated by State Parks may open. Operating schedules will differ across the state. Call the course directly for current information;
DEC is closing access to DEC-controlled fire towers until further notice. Trails and the summits to the towers remain open, but the towers themselves present a potential risk with multiple people climbing the stairs, in close quarters, unable to appropriately socially distance, and using the same handrails;
Limiting parking. State Parks may reduce the number of available parking spaces on high visitation days. Please avoid visiting crowded areas. For visitor safety and the safety of others, do not park on roadsides and only park in designated parking areas;
Boat Launches and Marinas: Marinas and boat launch sites are open where conditions allow. Call the park or regional office directly for current status;
Swimming: State Park beaches and pools will remain closed to swimming through May 31. State Parks continues to review plans to reopen swimming facilities and will announce any change in status;
Camping changes: all state-operated campgrounds, cabins, pavilions, and cottages are closed to visitation through May 31. All visitors with reservations will be issued a full refund. New York State has suspended all new camping, cabin and cottage reservations for the 2020 season until further notice. Visitors who wish to cancel an existing reservation may do so and receive a full refund, or you can transfer it to the 2021 season;
Temporarily suspend all overnight camping on this list of state lands;
Temporarily stop issuing permits for backcountry camping for groups of 10 or more, and for more than 3 days at one location on state lands;
Temporarily restricting lean-to-use to members of a single household at a time;
Temporarily closing Kaaterskill Falls, the viewing platform, and connecting trails beginning Monday, April 6. The Kaaterskill Wild Forest will remain open to the public; and
While enjoying outdoor spaces, please continue to follow the CDC/NYSDOH’s guidelines for preventing the spread of colds, flu, and COVID-19:
Stay home if you are sick, or showing or feeling any COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, coughing, and/or troubled breathing;
Practice social distancing. Keep at least six (6) feet of distance between you and others even when outdoors;
Wear a mask when you cannot maintain social distancing;
Avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, and high-five;
Wash hands often or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when soap and water are not available; and
Avoid unnecessary contact with surfaces that are often touched, such as doorknobs and handrails.
DEC and State Parks also encourage visitors to state parks and state lands, and other parks to:
Stay local and keep visits short;
Visit in small groups limited to immediate household members;
Maintain a distance from others while in places where people tend to congregate, such as parking lots, trailheads, and scenic overlooks;
Avoid games and activities that require close contact, such as basketball, football, or soccer;
Do not share equipment, such as bicycles, helmets, balls, or Frisbees;
If you arrive at a park or trail and crowds are forming, choose a different park, a different trail or return another time/day to visit; and
If parking lots are full, please do not park along roadsides or other undesignated areas. To protect your safety and that of others, please choose a different area to visit, or return another time or day when parking is available.
New Yorkers over 70 years old or with a compromised immune system should not visit public spaces, including those outdoors. These New Yorkers should remain indoors or spend time in the backyard or other personal outdoor space, pre-screen visitors by taking their temperature, and require visitors to wear masks.
Visitors to the Adirondack and Catskill Parks are reminded to always follow the Hiker Responsibility Code and avoid busy trailheads. Find trails less traveled and visit when trails may not be as busy during daylight hours. DEC also encourages New Yorkers to be safe and sustainable when recreating outdoors. Learn more about how you can protect natural spaces when exploring outdoors by following the seven principles of Leave no Trace. Additional information is available on the DEC website.
Outdoor Activities for Kids
Families with children at home during this time are encouraged to visit DEC’s caregivers webpage to find activities to help explore nature and fun outdoor activities under “Kids G.O (Get Outside)” and “Nature Activities,” plus lesson plans on a variety of topics for different grade levels in “Educator Lesson Plans” and “Hudson River Lesson Plans.” In addition, students can read about nature in “Conservationist for Kids.”
To limit the community spread of COVID-19, DEC is encouraging hunters, trappers, and anglers to purchase sporting licenses online. Sporting licenses may be purchased online at any time, and anglers may use their privileges immediately by simply carrying their transaction number (DEC-LS#) with them while afield.
Anglers, hunters, and trappers may also use the HuntFishNY mobile app to display an electronic copy of their license. The HuntFishNY app is available for download through the Apple App or Google Play stores. Back tags and carcass tags must still be mailed, and customers should allow 10-14 days for receipt of their tags.
DEC will provide updates periodically via email, social media, and at http://www.dec.ny.gov. We will also be available to respond to questions or concerns regarding visitation opportunities at firstname.lastname@example.org.