Outdoors

Staycation Summer

How to #Recreate Responsibly

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Washington Recreate Responsibly Coalition didn’t exist at this time last year. It didn’t need to.

It wasn’t until a global pandemic stopped the world in its tracks that the coalition of more than 50 Washington state organizations banded together in order to formulate a solid game plan about how to make recreating responsibly easier to remember, follow and share.

The newly formed group was brought together under the leadership of the Washington Trails Association, outdoor retailer REI, and state land managers. Included in the conversation were various government agencies, nonprofits and outdoor businesses that, according to a recent press release, are “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.”

Based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, public health guidelines and recreation experts, the tips the Washington Recreate Responsibly Coalition is hoping to incorporate into the statewide and even national lexicon are focused on common-sense directives such as planning ahead, staying close to home, practicing physical distancing and playing it safe as Governor Jay Inslee reopens state lands and waters (see the full list of tips in the sidebar). 

“As Washingtonians, we continue to fight to slow the spread of COVID-19,” says Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands. “As a community that treasures the outdoors, we are so profoundly grateful to get back outside. It is one small stop back to normalcy for us. Due to our shared sacrifice and the heroic work of our first responders, doctors and nurses, we can now begin reconnecting with nature again. However, we must all take the proper precautions to keep our communities, our families and ourselves safe from the virus so we can continue to enjoy the healing powers of nature.”

Although many of the guidelines the WRRC are touting have been mentioned throughout the course of the coronavirus crisis—which has thus far claimed more than 100,000 lives in the United States alone—the coalition realized that focusing on and solidifying the simple directives would help ensure understanding and awareness of shared best practices.

Eric Artz, REI’s president and CEO, thinks the Recreate Responsibly Coalition could have a reach far beyond the boundaries of Washington state. Expansion is already in the works. Just before Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial kickoff to summer, REI, the Outdoor Alliance, and the Outdoor Industry Association convened a group of partners who are interested in ensuring the conversation continues at the national level. At press time, the number of national members was 18 and growing.

As the weather gets warmer and more people venture outside to ride bikes, hike trails, run, kayak in various bodies of water, fish, ride horses, golf or camp, COVID-19 policies might need to be updated, and other activities such as climbing, off-roading, trail maintenance and restoration may require additional protocols.

And, since one of the main directives to #RecreateResponsibly focuses on not traveling far from home, staycations are likely to be on the rise this summer.

Since May 14, when Governor Inslee issued a memorandum that outdoor recreation tours and guide operations would begin to open in segments—offering guidelines for staffed outdoor tennis facilities, guided ATV, paddle sports, horseback riding, guided fishing, go-kart tracks, motocross facilities, and participant-only motorsports—organizations such as the Washington Outdoor Business Alliance are encouraging people to seek out professional tour guides and outfitters close to their own zip codes.

“It really is important for people not to overload those smaller communities in their restaurants or otherwise,” Inslee says. “It’s really a time to remain close to home. And we know some of these smaller communities have tried to reiterate that with us so that they are not overwhelmed.”

For those living in or near Skagit County, for example, Anacortes Kayak Tours is a good example of a business that already specializes in small group excursions where personal space is built into the activity, and safety and stewardship are top priorities. 

Being in a kayak naturally provides more than double the recommended social distancing space recommended by experts, the tour company’s Erik Schorr points out.

“There is no need to take a plane, a bus, a boat or a ferry,” he says. “You can drive directly to Anacortes on lovely Fidalgo Island and experience the fresh, healthy air of the San Juan Islands from the comfort of a stable sea kayak.”

For more details, go to http://www.recreationnorthwest.org/the-alliance

[Sidebar]

Six Tips for a Safer Summer]

Know Before You Go: Check the status of the place you want to visit. If it’s 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 such as 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.

For more details, go to http://www.recreateresponsibly.org

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