Your return to the great outdoors may be coming very soon.
During a tree-planting ceremony on the White House lawn today in commemoration of Earth Day, President Donald Trump announced plans to begin reopening our national parks, with details forthcoming in the next few days.
“Thanks to our significant progress against the invisible enemy, I am pleased to announce… we will begin to reopen our national parks and public lands for American people to enjoy,” Trump said during the ceremony. Most of the national parks system has been closed down in efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.
This came on the heels of the president’s announcement of plans to begin reopening the US economy, and opening the parks is another step in that direction. Taking his cue, governors around America also announced their plans, including opening more businesses and state and regional parks.
But don’t start gassing up your car for that long-awaited road trip to Yosemite quite yet. The Department of the Interior, which is in charge of national parks, will be reopening parks in conjunction with respective governors’ plans for their states. So, if current events are any indication, you’ll have a lot better odds of going to Big Bend in Texas before Yosemite in California.
Is this the right move?
“You have a lot of land to open up,” Trump said to Secretary of the Interior David Bernhart during his remarks. “People are going to be very happy.”
But not everyone is applauding the administration’s move.
Immediately following the announcement, Phil Francis, the chairman of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, released a statement saying, “We understand that the president is eager to reopen our national parks and we share that sentiment. However, parks should not open before the safety of National Park Service employees, concessionaires, volunteers and other partners, including those in gateway communities, can be ensured.”
The CPANP was among the first voices calling for the closure of national parks when the pandemic began.
Still, several states have begun moving towards opening public lands in the past week. Arizona made moves allowing boaters to use lakes around the state. Jacksonville, Florida, opened its beaches for limited hours of exercise. And Texas state parks are set to reopen this coming Monday.
Whether the move is detrimental to efforts to contain COVID-19 remains to be seen, but for the time being, you can, legally at least, begin staving off cabin fever by planning a trip to a national park (though, ideally, not the most heavily touristed ones). While it may not be a full return the world we knew a few months ago, it will at the very least remind us that nature is still out there.