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#RecreateResponsibly: WTA, Coalition Come Together to Offer COVID-19 Safety Tips

Posted by Jessi Loerch at May 21, 2020 06:34 AM |

WTA and more than 50 outdoor groups created simple guidelines to help ensure that people can continue to enjoy the benefits of being outdoors — while keeping themselves and our community safe. #RecreateResponsibly

As we all navigate this current health crisis, spending time outside has become even more important for our mental and physical well-being.

When state lands began to reopen, WTA, state agencies and other organizations were beginning to offer recommendations for reducing the risk to ourselves and others while still enjoying nature. The newly formed Washington Recreate Responsibly Coalition, which brings together more than 50 organizations, coalesced to simplify and amplify that guidance. This has resulted in six quick tips that are easy to remember, follow and share — helping everyone #RecreateResponsibly. And the work of the Washington coalition has begun to help shape the national conversation.

Brought together under the leadership of Washington Trails Association, outdoor retailer REI and state land managers, the Recreate Responsibly Coalition includes government agencies, nonprofits and outdoor businesses inspired by a love of the outdoors and a desire to help people safely experience the benefits of nature while ensuring that our public lands stay open.

“It became clear pretty quickly that there were a lot of similar conversations happening. It made sense for us all to come together to agree on clear and consistent guidelines that everyone could use,” said Andrea Imler, Washington Trails Association's advocacy director.

The result is six quick tips to help reduce the spread of the virus, based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, public health guidelines and recreation experts.


Six tips to help you #RecreateResponsibly

  • Know Before You Go: Check the status of the place you want to visit. If it is closed, don’t go. If it’s crowded, have a plan B.
  • Plan Ahead: Prepare for facilities to be closed, pack lunch and bring essentials like hand sanitizer and a face covering.
  • Stay Close to Home: This is not the time to travel long distances to recreate. Most places are only open for day use.
  • Practice Physical Distancing: Adventure only with your immediate household. Be prepared to cover your nose and mouth and give others space. If you are sick, stay home.
  • Play It Safe: Slow down and choose lower-risk activities to reduce your risk of injury. Search and rescue operations and health care resources are both strained.
  • Leave No Trace: Respect public lands and communities and take all your garbage with you.

The coalition realized that harmonizing these simple guidelines would increase the understanding and awareness of these shared best practices across the state, and potentially beyond. REI, one of the founding members of the Recreate Responsibly Coalition, has a reach beyond the state’s boundaries and quickly saw the potential to channel this energy nationwide. A nationwide campaign is helping to spread the word before the Memorial Day weekend. 

“Spending time outdoors has been important for many Americans during this public health crisis,” said Eric Artz, president and CEO of REI Co-op. “The #RecreateResponsibly coalition is an inspiring example of what’s possible in this state when organizations come together with a shared passion and a clear goal. By simplifying and amplifying guidance on how to recreate reasonably, we are keeping ourselves healthy, supporting our land managers and working together to keep our public lands open.  This is a collaborative model we hope to see take off at the national level and in other states.”  

The Coalition recognizes this is a first collective step. As more people get outside, and as governments update their COVID-19 policies, the guidance may need to be updated. In addition, different activities— climbing, off-roading, trail maintenance and restoration, for instance — may require additional protocols. The Coalition hopes to synthesize and amplify that additional guidance for the benefit of the broader community, too.

millersylvania Scott Willis web2.jpg
Photo by Scott Willis.

The reality is that the impacts of this pandemic on recreation and public lands will be felt for months, and maybe years, to come. The quick, collective response of the outdoor community shows how a love of nature can bring us together.

It has become clear that natural spaces and the ability to enjoy them are not mere nice-to-haves. Access to nature is a key component to our nation’s health and well-being.

Long term, the Recreate Responsibly Coalition hopes that this growing recognition of the value of time spent outside will translate to an increased desire to be strong stewards for public lands well into the future.

“Washingtonians love exploring the beauty of our state and the outdoor recreation economy is a key contributor to the state’s bottomline," said Andrea. "I am hopeful that we can take the momentum of this coalition and the growing recognition of outdoor recreation as a public good and continue to find new and innovative ways for Washington to be a model for the nation when it comes to our public lands and enjoying them.”


hikingwithlittledogs on #RecreateResponsibly: WTA, Coalition Come Together to Offer COVID-19 Safety Tips

I really appreciate the WTA website for help finding open trails. I was hoping you could clarify the alert that says “Developed recreation sites including trailheads as well as campgrounds and restrooms remain closed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19”. It seems like a lot of people are hiking these trails by parking on the road instead of the trailhead parking lot. I assumed closed trailhead meant closed trail. Have you heard anything from land managers about this? I’m eager to hike but want to follow the rules. Thank you.

Posted by:

hikingwithlittledogs on May 21, 2020 12:50 PM

Muledeer on #RecreateResponsibly: WTA, Coalition Come Together to Offer COVID-19 Safety Tips

I want to obey the rules also, as my hub and I are in the high risk group. What I don't understand is, if you can have a twosome or foursome playing golf, why not hiking? No problem doing the social distancing when you're the slowest hiker!

Posted by:

Muledeer on May 21, 2020 04:08 PM

Jessi Loerch on #RecreateResponsibly: WTA, Coalition Come Together to Offer COVID-19 Safety Tips

Thanks, hikingwithlittledogs, about being so thoughtful about where you hike. Currently, Forest Service has closed some trailheads and facilities. And, while those are closed, trails are open if you can get to them safely and park along the road without blocking traffic or causing a safety risk along the road.

Posted by:

Jessi Loerch on May 22, 2020 09:14 AM

Jessi Loerch on #RecreateResponsibly: WTA, Coalition Come Together to Offer COVID-19 Safety Tips

Muledeer, thanks for hiking thoughtfully. For now, we're continuing to recommend folks recreate with people in their own household, especially if they're driving to trailheads. We're offering the best advice we have from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, public health guidelines and recreation experts. And have fun, there's great joy in hiking slow.

Posted by:

Jessi Loerch on May 22, 2020 09:24 AM

cookdoggie on #RecreateResponsibly: WTA, Coalition Come Together to Offer COVID-19 Safety Tips

I notice some work parties are limited to those with 25 or more work party days, "due to covid-19 protocols". Can you elaborate on the reason for that, just curious. The only reason I could think of was with more experienced folks it's easier for them to work independently and individually, more distance apart, etc. Thanks!

Posted by:

cookdoggie on Jun 11, 2020 04:53 AM

Jessi Loerch on #RecreateResponsibly: WTA, Coalition Come Together to Offer COVID-19 Safety Tips

Hi cookdoggie! Thanks for your interest in work parties! Yes, we are still easing back into work parties. We have added new guidelines to help keep our volunteers and staff safe, and for now limiting some work parties helps us focus on that. We're looking forward to expanding trail work parties even more as it is safe to do so, so keep checking the schedule.

Posted by:

Jessi Loerch on Jun 11, 2020 04:14 PM