RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) — One day out from Virginia's plan for most of the commonwealth to enter Phase 1 of reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia State Parks have announced more details on their plan to gradually reopen state parks.
Governor Ralph Northam, when announcing the plans for Phase 1, said Virginia State Parks, which have been open for day use throughout the pandemic, will gradually open up overnight facilities with a phased approach beginning with park campgrounds during Phase 1.
Last Friday afternoon, Virginia State Parks issued a statement that they were working toward a goal of reopening campgrounds by May 22, in time for Memorial Day weekend.
That is still largely the plan, but on Thursday, Virginia State Parks provided more guidance on the timeline for specific facilities.
According to the state agency, operational plans have been developed on both statewide and park-specific levels to make sure visitors comply with group size limitations and social distancing requirements in Virginia.
Protocols are also in place to look after the safety of all guests and staff.
They say anyone planning to visit a Virginia state park for the rest of the spring and through the summer should be prepared for changes to normal park operations. Some facilities and amenities will be staying closed for a while.
All guests are encouraged to only visit parks close to home to reduce potential spread of the coronavirus across regions. Strict social distancing requirements at all parks will remain in place and group sizes will remain limited to 10 at most, in accordance with Virginia guidelines.
Guests must stay at least 6 feet apart from other guests and anyone who is sick or who has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should stay home.
You can check www.virginiastateparks.gov for the latest information about any particular park you plan to visit.
Any state park in northern Virginia will be following the delayed implementation of Phase 1 there and not moving to reopening for at least two weeks.
“I encourage everyone to ‘know before they go,’” Virginia State Parks Director Melissa Baker said. “Check the webpage for the park you plan to visit for alerts and updates. Recently, many state parks have reached visitor capacity and had to close early for the day. It's always good to have an alternate plan.”
“We’re honored that people are choosing Virginia State Parks for the outdoor experiences they need now,” said Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Director Clyde E. Cristman. “Access to green space and fresh air is important for physical and mental health. Virginia State Parks staff is working diligently to ensure safe access for everyone.”
Here is a list of state park amenities and their status as of May 14. Updates can be found at www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/covid-19-update
• Trails for hiking, biking and equestrian use
• Boat ramps
• Picnic tables and grills (open for groups fewer than 10)
Opening for Memorial Day weekend
• Campgrounds (except at Twin Lakes State Park, where the septic system is being repaired)
• Camping cabins and yurts
• Boat and bike rentals (will vary by park)
• Chairlift at Natural Tunnel State Park (limited schedule)
Closed until further notice
• Picnic shelters
• Cabins and lodges
• Swimming beaches
• Visitor centers
• Meeting facilities
• Ranger-led programs (self-guided programs are available)
• Shuttle services (includes the shuttle at Natural Bridge State Park)
Closed through summer 2020
• Swimming pools (includes the Splash Spray Ground at Occoneechee State Park)
• Horse livery at New River Trail State Park
Virginia’s 38 state parks are managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
According to the Department of Conservation and Recreation, any guests planning to camp at Virginia state parks should check the website for the individual park for their own latest updates.
Anyone with camping reservations from May 22 onward does not need to take any action, as those reservations will remain scheduled.
Anyone wanting to update reservation information can go here and follow the prompts on the website.
Guests can also call the reservation center at 800-933-7275, but be aware that their customer service representatives are working at capacity and wait times will be longer than usual.
Reservations until May 22 have been canceled and refunds have been automatically distributed through the Virginia State Parks customer service center.
You can always find the latest updates on what is and isn't open at Virginia State Parks here.