COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina state parks are reopening Friday, May 1. They were closed through the month of April to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our state.
All 47 state parks will be reopening, with the exception of Edisto Beach State Park where city officials there are still working out a time to open back up to the public. For every other state park, visitors are welcome, though you can expect to see several restrictions in place.
Paul McCormack is the park director with South Carolina State Parks. He says, “We’re not out of the woods with this yet, but we recognize that parks are important to people and they’re places that they want to get out and be able to enjoy the outdoors.”
There will be a limited number of people permitted inside each state park to allow for social distancing, and this number will vary depending on each park. Once a park reaches capacity, the gates will be closed until the number of visitors goes down.
Officials are asking visitors to purchase park admission online to limit contact with staff.
Park Visitor Centers will reopen Monday, May 11.
Because of concerns with keeping the equipment clean and sanitized, playgrounds will be closed through June.
Golf courses will be open.
Restrooms will be available and equipped with soap and water, but park officials say you can help to make this a safe and healthy process.
“We’re in this together, as a team. We want to provide a space for people to get outdoors, but remember that the people that are there at that park, working, are there so that you can be there. So, we ask that you respect their distance, keep away from the staff. We ask that you respect them by wearing a mask when you interact with them. We’re encouraging people to use the restroom before they come to the park, to stay local, only come to parks nearby you. Don’t make large road trips only to find out you can’t get into a park. Bring, maybe, some of your own hand sanitizer and water bottles, so that you don’t have to count on the park for that stuff,” said McCormack.
Staff members are being provided with masks.
In an effort to avoid large groups, picnic shelters and community buildings will be closed. Also, all park events have been canceled until further notice.
McCormack tells WIS-TV that, “When we have groups congregating together, our staff will go up and remind them of the social distancing guidelines, and the group size. We’re working with law enforcement on our beaches. Law enforcement will be working on beaches to make sure no groups of three or larger, or a family unit, will be gathering together. So, we are encouraging people to follow these guidelines, but a lot of this is going to be up to the people themselves. We’re doing everything we can to make it possible for you to come to the park on your own or with your own family, get in and enjoy yourself without ever having to interact with anybody else.”
Park passport holders will be compensated for the one month the state parks were closed. One of two things will happen:
· When you purchase a new passport, we will add the extra month on to that passport at no charge.
· When your current passport expires, you may turn it in and we'll give you another passport for the month missed at no charge.
For more information on South Carolina state parks reopening on a limited basis, visit: https://southcarolinaparks.com/