Many parks closed but trails open with cautions

Parks and other federal and state lands are closed to visitors during the COVID-19 crisis, although many hiking trails are open but with reduced services.

Olympic National Park has waived entry fees for visitors and most hiking trails and day-use areas remain accessible to the public, although the park will offer no services outside those that support visitor or resource protection.

“Visitor protection (including search and rescue) and resource protection as well as law enforcement, public health services, and critical infrastructure operations will continue,” said Penny Wagner, park spokeswoman, in a press release.

She added the reminder that those who need to be rescued could strain “already taxed resources and medical services especially in our rural communities.”

The park closed to all fishing Thursday.

Most park roads are closed at the park boundary. These temporary closures include Staircase Road, Hurricane Ridge Road, Ozette Road, Mora Road, Upper Hoh Road, Lower and Upper Queets roads and North Fork and Graves Creek roads in the Quinault Valley.

The Olympic Hot Springs Road and Whiskey Bend Road in the Elwha Valley are closed to vehicles at the Madison Falls parking area due to the washout of Olympic Hot Springs Road.

All overnight camping, including in wilderness, is currently suspended.

All drive-in park campgrounds are closed including Staircase, Heart O’ the Hills, Ozette, Mora, Hoh, Kalaloch, Queets, North Fork, and Graves Creek. Deer Park, Fairholme, Sol Duc, and South Beach have not opened for the season and remain closed at this time.

The seasonal opening of Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, campground and RV park and Sol Duc Road is delayed until April 24.

Visitor centers are closed. Restrooms are closed.

Winter operations at Hurricane Ridge ended as of March 17. The Hurricane Ridge Road is closed above the Heart O’ the Hills entrance station.

Kalaloch Lodge, Creekside Restaurant and The Mercantile are closed.

Social distancing is urged for all those on trails or elsewhere in the wilderness. People should stay six feet apart.

“As services are limited, the National Park Service urges visitors to continue to practice Leave No Trace principles, including pack-in and pack-out, to keep outdoor spaces safe and healthy,” the park said in a press release.

To make changes to or cancel existing wilderness permit reservations affected by this closure, contact the Wilderness Information Center at 360-565-3100 (Option 4) or email Olym_WIC@nps.gov.

Updates about national park operations will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus.

National forest

The Olympic National Forest also has closed public facilities.

“We want to keep the public and our employees as safe as we can, and closing facilities is necessary,” Acting Forest Supervisor Leisa Cook said.

To get the latest information about forest closures, go to www.fs.usda.gov/olympic.

In addition, the National Forest Service is pausing all spring prescribed fire efforts on national forest lands across the states of Oregon and Washington to avoid introducing smoke from prescribed fire into communities affected by COVID-19.

State parks

The state Parks and Recreation Commission and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife have closed temporarily all state-managed parks, wildlife areas and water access areas.

This includes the fishing pond at the Class “A” Water Re-Use Demonstration Site located at Carrie Blake Park.

Entrance gates and facilities will be closed, and on-site public services will be suspended. Essential staff will be present to preserve and protect resources.

The public can find the latest information about State Parks and Fish and Wildlife operations at www.parks.wa.gov and at www.wdfw.wa.gov.

All access to Nature Conservancy owned and managed lands in the state, including the Hoh River Recreation and Conservation Area, are closed.

For updates, see www.washingtonnature.org.

Local parks

The Fort Worden Public Development Authority is now closed for all public-facing business.

Updates will be posted to www.fortworden.org and to the PDA’s social media.

In Sequim, Railroad Bridge Park facilities — including parking lots, picnic shelters, amphitheater, and restrooms — are closed until further notice.

The Dungeness River Audubon Center, located at the park, closed one week ago. Two park hosts, who live on-site, will continue to oversee the property 24-hours a day.

The Olympic Discovery Trail, which crosses the Dungeness River over the Railroad Bridge trestle, remains open.

River Center director, Powell Jones, strongly recommends that bicyclers and walkers stay six-feet apart when using the trail and bridge, and, for safety’s sake, suggests walkers consider finding another route due to heavy foot traffic on the bridge.

The City of Sequim has closed Carrie Blake, Margaret Kirner, Pioneer Memorial and Dr. Standard parks. The Olympic Discovery Trail and June Robinson Memorial Park will remain open for walking and biking the trail and for gardening respectively.

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