Working Together to Recreate Responsibly

Ron Aharoni on Unsplash

Thanks to the sacrifices that Washingtonians have made over the last several weeks, some public lands will reopen for day-use only starting on May 5. While we’re all feeling excited to have some new opportunities for outdoor recreation, it is essential that we recreate responsibly so that lands can stay open for continued use.

As of this writing, DNR-managed lands will reopen for public recreation, along with lands managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Washington State Parks and Recreation. Please note that there will not be a mass opening across the board. Certain high-traffic trailheads or parks could remain closed, or be re-closed if issues pop up, so it is imperative that you are well-prepared and research before heading out. Think about the places people are most likely to go, and use this as a chance to think outside the box. Do you know of a trail on open lands that isn’t usually too busy and perhaps has a wider path? Perfect! And if you can go during “off times” such as during the week or early morning, even better.

Leaders from across the recreation community have come together to provide the following guidance on what it means to #RecreateResponsibly.


Before you go

  • Check what’s open. Many state-managed lands are open for day-use only, but some local and federal lands may still be closed. Overnight camping is not allowed, nor events, gatherings, or team sports.
  • Stay close to home and avoid extra stops. This is not the time to travel long distances to recreate. Overnight stays are not permitted, and staying closer to home will help to limit potential negative impacts on small, rural communities. Pack your lunch and get gas before you go, don’t make unnecessary stops to or from your destination.
  • Recreate with immediate household members only. Recreation with those outside of your household creates new avenues for virus transmission.
  • Be prepared. Restrooms may be closed or limited during the reopening process, so bring your own soap, water, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper, as well as a mask or bandana to cover your nose and mouth. Also, don’t forget the 10 Essentials
  • Feeling sick? Save your outdoor adventure for another day.
    Have back-up plans: Have a “plan b” and a “plan c” in mind for your outing in case your “plan a” has a nearly full parking lot or your destination is closed.

When you get there

  • Practice physical distancing. Keep six feet between you and anyone who doesn’t live with you. Leave at least one parking space between vehicles and boat trailers, and only launch one boat at a time.
  • Wear a mask and practice good hygiene. Keep your hands clean and avoid touching any high-traffic surfaces (such as in restroom facilities). When you must be in close contact with others, wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth.
  • Leave no trace. Always pack out what you pack in, including gloves and masks. With facilities just reopening, there may not be staff collecting trash. Be respectful of our public lands and facilities.
  • Don’t take unnecessary risks. Health care workers and first responders are working really hard right now to keep us safe during this health crisis, and resources are already strained. Any risks that might mean you need rescue or health care could further strain those resources. Please choose your outing with this in mind.

If it’s closed, don’t go

Things are changing every day during this pandemic, and we all must remain flexible and patient. It is more important than ever to research your plans in advance, and determine whether your destination is open or not. Abiding by remaining closures will help our entire extended community, and ultimately allow things to re-open more smoothly when the time comes. Responsible actions now will lead to better outcomes for everyone down the road!


Check here for a high-level, compiled list of what’s currently opened vs. closed, as well as a ton of creative ideas to do from home if you prefer not to venture out just yet.