Ohio’s parks, lakes good places to practice social distancing

Fishing At Madison Lake
Madison Lake (Photo courtesy of Jane Beathard)

Like a lot of folks, I am pretty tired of staying home amid all the pandemic panic. So, like many others, I have headed to local state parks and nature preserves to escape.

I visited Madison Lake, Clifton Gorge, and Deer Creek in recent weeks. I was reminded how lucky we are in Ohio to have beautiful state recreation areas that charge no admission fees. We are one of the few states that keep things fee free, despite high maintenance costs.

Last week, Ohio DNR Director Mary Mertz issued a column stressing that fact and urging all Ohioans to be thoughtful and considerate when visiting parks, preserves, forests, and wildlife areas during this pandemic.

She also said to plan ahead, knowing that snack bars, restrooms, and playgrounds will be closed. Since there’s no trash pick-up, visitors should plan to carry their own garbage out.

But hiking trails are open everywhere except Hocking Hills State Park. That park was forced to close several weeks ago because so many people flocked there. I can see why. It is one of the most beautiful in the 75-park system.

Mertz recommended choosing the less-traveled sites. Not a bad idea.

The parking lot at popular Clifton Gorge SNP was packed when I got there two weeks ago. That should have been my clue to look for a lesser-known site at ohiodnr.gov.

However, a car vacated a spot, giving me a place to pull in. So, I stayed.

The trails were equally packed with people. But I must say everyone kept good distances. Sometimes, whole families stepped far off the path to allow me passage. I tried to do the same for others.

The situation was very different at less-popular Madison Lake. There were at least a dozen anglers out on a recent warm day. Some were maintaining a six-foot space and some were not. A group of young men – maybe teens – were playing basketball on the park’s court. Definitely, no social distancing for them.

I was surprised to see so many anglers (and fishing boats) out at Deer Creek SP. All the popular fishing spots around the lake had visitors. All were keeping a good distance – at least six feet or more. Most were around the marina and dam’s outflow – two of the most popular fishing holes. It was sad to see few cars (except maintenance vehicles) around the lodge and at Harding Cabin.

The golf course and cabins at Deer Creek were also closed.

I don’t think masks are a good idea in Ohio’s great outdoors and Director Mertz did not mention them in her column. They inhibit important oxygen intake and spoil the view. However, seasonal allergy sufferers like me might find them worthwhile!

My next out-of-quarantine adventure might be a fishing trip to Lake Erie. The walleye are thick as thieves and the charters had a green light as of May 11. I am not sure how all this distancing stuff will work on a head boat or six-pack. But I would like to find out.

I feel sorry for the captains who can only take a handful of folks out, yet still pay for a full tank of gas to get to the good fishing grounds.

With no end in sight, Director Mertz’s column pointed out that outdoor activities are a good way to maintain physical and mental health in this stressful time.

There’s lots of fun to be had in Ohio’s beautiful outdoors.

Categories: Ohio – Jane Beathard

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