Because of a heavy influx of guests failing to follow guidelines established to help prevent the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), state officials have temporarily closed the gates to Raven Rock State Park.
Residents have been entering the park in large numbers, according to North Carolina Parks spokesperson Katie Hill. She said as many as three times the usual number of visitors were going through the gates at Raven Rock, forcing officials to make a decision to shut down the park to the public.
“The county asked us to close the park due to crowding at the park,” Hill said. “There was triple the average visitation for days on end.”
It was a case of people who entered the park not being aware, or trying to become aware, of the number of people who were there already. Hill said while people may not be aware of how many others are at a park, more attention needed to be paid to the overall situation.
“I would say there’s no way for people to know how crowded a park is going to be before they visit,” she said. “But if they arrive at a park and it is crowded they should go home.”
The state has closed a total of four parks completely, while others remain accessible without facilities such as restrooms and campgrounds remaining shuttered for the time being.
In addition to Raven Rock, officials closed Hanging Rock because of social distancing issues and Fort Macon and Fort Fisher State Parks because the properties contain beaches.
“Some people are lucky enough to live near a park that doesn’t get very crowded,” Hill said. “But especially around the Triangle, Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Greensboro [areas] ... those population areas really flood those parks.”
The remaining state parks are not conducting any programs and have closed all campgrounds and lodges. Trails and parking areas are open to the public at those parks, and staff will be on-site.
Rick Curl can be reached at email@example.com or 910-230-2037.