State park managers in Southern Utah concerned with out-of-state visitors, lack of social distancing

Southern Utah

GUNLOCK (ABC4 News) – Soon after Utah Gov. Gary Herbert issued a new stay-at-home directive, park managers throughout Washington County noticed hundreds of visitors flocking to popular state parks, including those both out of the county and out of the state.

Under the governor’s new directive, state parks such as Snow Canyon, Sand Hollow, and Gunlock are only open to Washington County residents. Park managers told ABC4 News Monday they are continuing to see people from out of state, who told them they were unaware of the governor’s actions.

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“We are manning our gate and asking people if they are local now,” Sand Hollow State Park manager Jonathan Hunt said. “Several people have turned around upset. We are making hundreds of phone calls to let campers know before they show up that we will not allow them entrance.”

State park officials said they’re noticing full parking lots and overlooks, with many visitors who are still not practicing social distancing.

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“It’s really putting a lot of faith and trust in the general public to look for opportunities to recreate in the way we’ve been asked to do,” Jon Allred, manager at Gunlock State Park, said. “We ask that people be really patient with each other and staff because these are stressful times and everything is new for us too.”

Allred said he’s noticed many Washington County snowbirds who have decided to hunker down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Visitors at Snow Canyon State Park said they’re seeing many visitors dangerously crowded together at popular trail heads, noticing people having picnics in the parking lots in their cars — some with license plates from Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, and New Mexico.

Utah State Parks officials told ABC4 News they are still trying to get the word out to visitors given this fairly new directive, adding that they’re counting on people to police themselves. Since Gov. Herbert’s directive is not a legal mandate, state park employees are not issuing citations or looking at driver’s licenses.

“We are expecting the public to follow the Governor’s directive,” said Utah State Parks spokesman Eugene Swalberg.

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