DNR: Practice social distancing or state parks may close


HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has a warning for park visitors: keep your distance from others outside your household, or state park and recreation areas could close.

Friday, some people visited Holland State Park to enjoy the sunshine, fresh air and Lake Michigan views. Catherine Smith of Caledonia was among them.

“We’ve been doing home school for the past three weeks and wanted to get out of the house,” she said. “It’s our first day of spring break.” 

While authorities acknowledged getting outside has a positive impact on mental and physical health, they worry too many people enjoying state parks all at once could create a breeding ground for COVID-19.

“It is so important that we do everything we can to not spread this problem, this COVIS-19 virus, any further than it is,” said John Peplin, deputy public information officer for the MDNR.  

His message to the public: “Comply with the very important health considerations that need to be adhered to at this point.”

State officials say they haven’t closed any state parks yet, but they did shut down Michigan’s Tippy Dam Recreation Area because of too many visitors.

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The state has also shut down public restrooms and many park amenities, including playgrounds and dog areas, to discourage crowds.

Anyone caught violating the social distancing rule could be fined up to $1,000.

Smith says she hopes the possible punishment will encourage Michigan residents to stay safe.

Authorities recommended finding secluded areas in state parks, hiking alone or even visiting state parks that aren’t hot spots for large groups. 

Visitors are also encouraged to bring their own hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes, since handwashing stations are closed.