Governor Hutchinson directs state parks to implement new measures for public health

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FILE – In this Feb. 25, 2018 file photo, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks at the National Governor Association 2018 winter meeting in Washington. Arkansas lawmakers have sent the governor legislation banning most abortions 18 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy, a prohibition that could be the strictest in the country. The House on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, gave final approval by an 86-1 vote to the bill, which Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he supports. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (News release) – Governor Asa Hutchinson has approved temporary changes to Arkansas State Parks’ operations to protect public health during the COVID-19 crisis, he announced at a news conference today. 

The Governor has directed that Arkansas State Parks implement “day use” operations only, effective 8 a.m. on Friday, April 3, a decision he made in consultation with Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism Secretary Stacy Hurst.

“Arkansas State Parks will remain operational,” Governor Hutchinson said. “Arkansas is known for our outdoor recreation, and we want to allow Arkansans to safely enjoy what our state has to offer. These new safety measures will reduce the risk of overcrowding at our parks and discourage visitors from out-of-state until the threat of COVID-19 has passed.”

“This Friday, we will move to ‘day use’ only across our state parks system, eliminating all overnight stay opportunities,” Secretary Hurst said. “This is consistent with 28 other states, and we believe it will further reduce the number of out-of-state visitors. We are staying on top of the data and best practices and will adjust if further limitations are needed.”

Under the new “day use” directive, Arkansas State Parks will close overnight facilities, such as cabins and campgrounds.

In addition, Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism is temporarily implementing safety measures to prevent visitation surges in state parks. Arkansas State Parks will deploy park rangers to enforce social distancing, disperse gatherings of more than 10 people, and implement parking restrictions to limit overcrowding at popular parks.

Secretary Hurst will closely monitor problematic areas such as trails that are overcrowded or too narrow for proper social distancing and close such areas as needed. Information on the park closings can be found at https://www.ArkansasStateParks.com/covid-19-update.

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