August 17, 2020 Guidance in the COVID-19 Era From Mike Passo, Executive Director of American Trails
Whether hiking, bicycling, riding on horseback or participating in motorized recreation nearly everyone uses trails for a similar goal - to spend time outdoors. This time outside, whether a short walk down a paved trail to work in an urban setting, or a high to appoint reachable to only a few Americans makes trail users happier people. We all know that spending time outdoors could improve our personal health in many ways like less than anxiety, decreasing depression, first and creativity, and increasing optimism.
But during this time of crisis, not all recreation is responsible.
Here are five questions to ask yourself to help you decide whether it is indeed appropriate and safe for you to go outside.
Do I have the potential to come within 6 feet of people who are not part of my household? Is the trail wide enough, or does it offer the opportunity to get me in my equipment at least 6 feet (many experts are now saying 12 feet) away from another person passing on the trail. Single direction (one-way) trails are the best option for allowing limited exposure to other people.
Does this activity put me at risk for potential rescue straining local resources? Now is not the time to be attempting highly challenging or dangerous activities or highly technical trails that have a higher likelihood of you hurting yourself. Our hospitals have enough to worry about now, without you feeling out there waiting rooms with broken arms or twisted ankles.
Am I coming into contact with surfaces that can hold and transfer the virus? Avoid being out long enough that you would need to use the trail head facilities (toilets), we need to tie up your horse at a crowded hitching post.
Will this put me in closer contact with vulnerable populations, such as those with compromised immune systems, persons over the age of 65, or those who are pregnant? Your actions do not only affect you, but have a great effect on the people around you. Any time you move during this pandemic, you have the potential of carrying the virus with you as an asymptomatic carrier, or even on your clothing. No matter what, avoid even remote contact with vulnerable populations.
Do I need to travel outside of my local community to do this? If you travel far to get to your trail or outdoor recreation experience, you may need to stop stop for gas or pick up food at a restaurant. Stay close to home to limit these exposures.
If you can answer yes to any of these questions please alter your plans to keep your community safe by finding another form of recreation, a different location, or staying home.