HURRICANE (ABC4 News) – Officials with Utah State Parks say that from north to south, state parks were packed this weekend, but especially overcrowded in Southwest Utah, and park managers in Washington County announced they’re adding some new restrictions to ensure social distancing.
For the first time, rangers had to temporarily close the gates at Sand Hollow, Gunlock, and Quail Creek state parks which reached capacity, a huge concern to public health amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to officials.
Sand Hollow State Park manager Jonathan Hunt told ABC4 News he really wants visitors to come and enjoy the parks, but he expects that people will recreate responsibly and do their part to keep each other safe.
“It was just too much for the park to handle. We filled all of our parking stalls and all of our camping areas were full,” Hunt said. “We don’t want to see big barbecues. We don’t want to see people dancing and getting together playing volleyball.”
Hunt said he saw a line of parked cars stretching at least a mile down the roads leading to Sand Hollow over the weekend. Law enforcement will now be patrolling the roads and continue to break up large gatherings, officials said.
“We will not be allowing people to park on the shoulder of the road. We will not be allowing people to park and hop fences and walk into the park,” added Hunt.
Park rangers at Sand Hollow announced they will no longer be allowing overnight camping at the beach. Now, that three-mile stretch of sand will allow day-use crowds to spread out and keep their social distance, adding that this restriction will likely last for at least a month or two, according to officials.
Moving forward, when Washington County’s state parks reach capacity, which Hunt says will typically be between 10 a.m. to noon on weekends, no one will be allowed in for most of the afternoon.
If one state park has reached capacity, officials say you should assume the other state parks in Washington County have reached their limits as well.
“Hop on our website and check our conditions before you show up at the park,” Hunt said. “Visit your local parks, visit your local recreation areas, and enjoy what Utah has to offer.”
UPDATE: Gunlock State Park is following in Sand Hollow’s footsteps and is closing its beach campsites. Park manager Jon Allred said beach campers take up a lot of space and park rangers are trying to maintain social distance and serve as many people as they can. Allred added that campers often stay through the weekend and take up the limited beach space; this change will allow for more people to visit and enjoy the outdoors without staying as long. These camp closures are in effect until the end of May, according to officials.