Overnight facilities at West Virginia's state parks and forests, currently closed to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, will start reopening to state residents on May 21.
Campgrounds are scheduled to open May 21, while cabins and lodges will open on May 26. To follow the guidelines of Gov. Jim Justice's Safer at Home order and reopening plan for the state, overnight facilities will be open only to West Virginia residents. Most day-use areas remain open to the public, though social distancing guidelines will be enforced.
"Our first and most important priority at this time is making sure our guests, visitors and staff are safe," West Virginia State Parks Chief Brad Reed said in a West Virginia State Parks press release. "We want to thank the governor and our state's health officials for leading us through this crisis and providing the guidance and resources we need to start reopening our parks and forests."
For updates on the phased reopening and amended operations plan, visit www.wvstateparks.com/travel-alert.
Facilities opening May 21
Park offices associated with camping, camp stores, campground bathhouses, golf courses, wobble clay shotgun ranges, riding stables, boat docks and other day-use recreational facilities are scheduled to open with amended operations on May 21. The park system's customer service call center also will return to full operations. Boardwalks to popular overlooks at Blackwater Falls and Coopers Rock and the trail system at Beartown will open during this phase.
Camping reservations will be limited to West Virginia residents until further notice and only registered campers will be permitted to enter campgrounds. Tents, campers and trailers must be placed a minimum of 30 feet from neighboring camping units. Some campsites will be left vacant to accomplish this.
Facilities opening May 26
Cabins, lodges, nature centers and museums are scheduled to open on May 26. Restaurants also will resume full service with reduced seating capacity.
Cabin and lodge room reservations also will be limited to West Virginia residents until further notice, and only registered guests will be permitted to stay overnight.
Park and forest staff will follow all guidelines issued by Gov. Justice, as well as state and federal health officials. This includes wearing personal protective equipment, such as masks, and adopting deep-cleaning measures at all facilities. Staff also have been instructed to place signs promoting social distancing guidelines around all park and forest facilities. Park staff will monitor day-use areas and prohibit all gatherings of 25 or more people in one location.
West Virginia State Parks is managed by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, a division of the West Virginia Department of Commerce. For more, visit www.wvstateparks.com.
Related social media hashtags are #WVStateParks and #AlmostHeaven.