In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, America’s National Parks have slowly but surely reduced operations. Many if not all of the park system’s most trafficked areas have been closed off, and some parks have temporarily closed entirely. Those that remain open, though, will be free to access after the National Park Service announced on Wednesday that it is waiving entrance fees, in part so that “the public doesn’t need to interact and exchange money with a park employee.”
While fresh air in a National Park may sound nice right now, there’s another perspective to consider before you head out for the day. A reader named Sharon, who works as a “park ranger at a major national park,” wrote in with the following request: Don’t visit a National Park right now. In her words:
“Could you please ask your readers to stop visiting National Parks during this health crisis? Parks are being kept open for political reasons—not what’s best for visitors or the staff. As a park ranger at a major National Park, I can tell you personally how the thousands of people we deal with every day is putting all of the park staff—rangers, bus drivers, sales clerks, maids—at higher risk of infection. Many of the people who work in the park live below the poverty and can’t afford to get hospitalized. Please, ask people to stay home. They are mistaken in thinking that a park must be safe or it wouldn’t be open—nothing could be farther from the truth. Please, ask them to stay home to help all of us stay safe. The parks will be here when this crisis is over.”
As Sharon says, the parks will be open to visitors again after we beat this, whenever that is. Until then, you might consider dreaming about your next National Park adventure with this book. Thanks for sharing, Sharon.
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