Hocking Hills State Park closes
Logan, Ohio — On the heels of the closure of one of the more popular spring fishing areas by a northwest Ohio municipality, the Ohio DNR has decided to shut down one of its more popular state parks.
It’s all over the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic that is sweeping across not only Ohio but also the nation and the world.
The latest casualty of COVID-19 closures is Hocking Hills State Park, which was closed to visitors on Friday, April 3. The park and all of its trails will close at sunset on April 3, according to a news release from the ODNR.
“In order to protect the health and safety of our visitors, we are temporarily closing Hocking Hills State Park,” said ODNR Director Mary Mertz. “This was a difficult decision, however, this unique trail system is not designed to allow for adequate social distancing without potential risks.”
The challenging terrain of a narrow trail system, where stepping off the trail is strictly prohibited, makes keeping 6 feet of distance between visitors nearly impossible. In some areas, stepping off the trail may result in injury. Limited park staffing could impact response time as well as place undue pressure on local emergency personnel should falls or accidents occur.
At this time, Hocking Hills State Park is the only full park closure in Ohio’s state park system and will include the closure of several features and sites including: Ash Cave, Cantwell Cliffs, Cedar Falls, Old Man’s Cave, Rock House and Whispering Cave. This closure will also include Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve.
Two days earlier, on April 1, the city of Fremont in northwest Ohio closed all of its public accesses to the Sandusky River. That river is a popular place for anglers in the spring, who go there to chase spawning walleyes and later in the spring, white bass.
Both of these closures are a good reminder that social distancing in our state parks and on our rivers is a must right now. Authorities are carefully monitoring these places and if they see crowds gathering on a consistent basis, more state parks or boat launches could be closed in the future.
In an interview with Ohio Outdoor News earlier this week, ODNR Director Mary Mertz said she did not want to close down boat ramps or state parks, but that the situation with COVID-19 is fluid.