While much of the country has shut down to dispel crowds during the coronavirus pandemic, many of its highly-visited national parks remain open.
Federal officials are now facing pressure to take action and close America’s national parks for the duration of the crisis.
In a letter addressed to U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, the nonprofit Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks is urging the closure of all national parks to help stop crowded trails from becoming places where the coronavirus may continue to spread.
Many sites remain open and entrance fees at some have been waived.
At Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, the popular Old Rag trail is closed but Skyline Drive and its overlooks remain open despite Northam’s stay-at-home order — and even as counties near the park have begun to see their first confirmed cases.
“It is, of course, predictable that visitors will escape the frustrations of confinement and visit popular trails and overlooks where park roads remain open,” read the letter, penned by nonprofit chair Philip A. Francis.
“It is now long past time for you to take a strong stand in support of the health of those who need and depend on you to do so.”
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At least seven National Park Service employees have tested positive for coronavirus.
While some restrictions for visitors have been put in place at certain parks, Bernhardt has made clear plans to keep parks open during the pandemic.
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