Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn announced the department has canceled all in-person events and programs organized by its staff and volunteers in all state parks and forests, beginning Sunday, December 6.
“Safety of all our state park and forest visitors always has been paramount with DCNR and we are taking this temporary but necessary action in response to the continuing rise of COVID-19 cases across the state,” Dunn said. “Throughout the pandemic we have kept our lands open to all so they enjoy outdoor recreation and the positive physical and mental health it provides. That will not change but we must limit social interaction at this time.”
This decision, affecting approximately 150 planned events, will be in effect until further notice. People who have registered for programs will be notified.
This action also includes a move away from DCNR’s normally organized group First Day Hikes that were planned for New Year’s Day, January 1, 2021. Instead, many alternatives for individual hiking that day in state parks and forests will be made available later by DCNR.
State parks and forests will remain open for use by the public. DCNR staff will be taking additional steps to offer self-guided programming only or virtual events. Check the Calendar of Events for scheduled programs.
Out-of-state visitors who are planning to stay overnight at state park and forest facilities must have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of entering the commonwealth. If someone cannot get a test or chooses not to, they must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Pennsylvania before visiting a state park or forest. Pennsylvanians visiting other states are required to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of their return to the commonwealth or to quarantine for 14 days upon return. Visitors who don’t comply may be fined between $25 and $300.
The department’s most recent action is in line with other preventive steps taken, including requiring testing or quarantining for all out-of-state visitors to parks and forests.
Visitor center exhibit halls and interpretive areas will be closed, and all indoor programs will be canceled. Restrooms will continue to be available.
Masks must be worn:
- In park and forest offices;
- In any other indoor public space, including restrooms; and
- Outdoors when visitors are unable to adequately social distance.
Dunn noted visits to Pennsylvania state parks have increased by more than a million visitors a month since the start of mitigation efforts, and that interest is expected to hold strong through the winter and spring.
To help avoid exposure to COVID-19 and still enjoy the outdoors:
- Don’t hike or recreate in groups – go with those under the same roof, and adhere to social distancing (stay 6 feet apart)
- Take hand sanitizer with you and use it regularly
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, and nose
- Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with a tissue or flexed elbow
- If you are sick, stay home
Visitors can help keep state parks and forest lands safe by following these practices:
- Avoid crowded parking lots and trailheads
- Bring a bag and either carry out your trash or dispose of it properly
- Clean up after pets
- Avoid activities that put you at greater risk of injury, so you don’t require a trip to the emergency room
Pennsylvania has 121 state parks and 20 forest districts; all are open year-round.