Outdoor recreation sees uptick during stay-at-home order

Published 5:23 pm Friday, April 17, 2020

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Though some recreational facilities in Beaufort County have been closed due to COVID-19 concerns, one local business is seeing an uptick in visits and Goose Creek State Park has seen more people utilizing its hiking trails, as more people look for ways get out of the house and get some fresh air.

For local business owner Liane Harsh, social distancing requirements, coupled with a statewide order to stay at home, have led to an increase in cycling and kayak business at Inner Banks Outfitters.

“I’m mostly noticing a huge increase in bikes,” Harsh said. “A lot of people are bringing bikes in for repair. They’re pulling them out of places where they haven’t ridden them in years. We’re fixing them, getting people on bikes and selling more bikes than usual.”

As the weather continues to warm up, Harsh expects more people will take advantage of kayak rentals at the shop as well. A few weekends back, on an unusually warm March weekend, there was considerable traffic at the Runyon Creek boat ramp across from the store.

Whether on the road pedaling or on the water paddling, Harsh says she sees both activities as a way to enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise, all while practicing social distancing.

“That’s the nice thing about cycling and kayaking, is it’s natural social distancing,” Harsh said. “They’re activities where you can go with a group of people and stay six feet apart easily. It’s also something you can do alone and have just as much fun.”

It’s also easy to stay six feet apart at Goose Creek State Park. While many of the park’s facilities are closed, including its visitor center, restrooms, picnic shelters, campgrounds and swim beach, its nearly eight miles of hiking trails are still open, as is Dinah’s Landing for boat access.

“At first, I think we saw a peak in visitation and then it kind of plateaued a little bit,” said park Superintendent Doug Lequire. “We had to close down half the park, including the swim beach because of overcrowding issues we were seeing there.”

Lequire says the park wants to encourage visitors to come and enjoy the park, take a short hike and then head home. Across the state, about 25 state parks have closed completely because of crowding, and those that remain open are seeing increased visitation.

“I think with the stay-at-home order, people are looking for more and more places to get out and do something instead of being cooped up in the house,” added Goose Creek State Park Ranger Joe Martin.

As such, the park system has issued a set of guidelines people should

follow if they visit, including the following:

  • Read the CDC guidelines on protecting yourself while visiting parks and recreational facilities from their website.
  • Use the restroom prior to coming to the park. All restrooms at state parks are closed.
  • Do not take group pictures that violate social distancing guidelines.
  • Do not share your camera with others to take pictures.
  • Dogs must be kept on a leash — violators will be cited.
  • Do not touch other visitors’ pets or allow yours to be touched.
  • Employ social distancing when enjoying scenic venues.
  • Come to the park early or in the middle of the week to avoid the largest crowds.
  • Do not enter areas or parks that have been closed. If the park appears busy when you arrive, come back another time.

As always, visitors are also encouraged to pack out the trash they bring in.

For more details about Goose Creek State Park, and the N.C. State Park system, visit www.ncparks.gov.