American national parks are gradually opening-up

However, some facilities and services will not be available until the end of the year.

American national parks and recreation areas have begun to re-admit visitors as part of the gradual reopening of sectors that were shut down during the coronavirus pandemic.

This process is expected to expand in the coming weeks.

Three of the most visited parks opened last weekend: the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and South Carolina, Gateway in New York and New Jersey, and Glen Canyon in Arizona and Utah.

Interior Minister David Bernhardt said the parks system is seeking to expand access in line with recommendations from health authorities at the Federal and local levels.
Park representatives also consult with elected officials in their respective States.

“Now we’ve started moving,” Bernhardt said in an interview. – We are continuing to expand access last week, and this week, so you will see a lot more soon. But some services and facilities may not be as you saw them last summer.”

In photos from local media, you can see cars rushing into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which opened last weekend, filled Parking lots, and people walking along paths close to each other without masks.

Park spokeswoman Dana Soen acknowledged that visitors often ignored social distancing measures in some popular areas of the Park, but noted that most people kept their distance when asking questions to employees.

“There has never been an overload in the congestion of staff or visitors,” Soen said.

The opening of famous parks in the West of the country, including Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, has not yet been announced.

Yosemite National Park officials said they are working on a plan to gradually open, although some facilities and services will not be available until the end of the year.

Bernhardt said that we should expect similar situations in other parks: visitor centers, theaters and other facilities in the parks will probably remain closed, although the parks themselves will open.

Park employees are often more likely than other government employees to contact the public by answering questions or showing visitors the way. Many employees are concerned that visitors who ignore social distance requirements may endanger employees.

A representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs said that the Agency would provide masks to all employees of parks, which number more than 70 thousand.

The National Park Service, part of the interior Ministry, closed about 160 of 419 sites as health authorities tried to limit crowding and keep people at home to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The Grand Canyon closed only on April 1 after a confirmed case of infection and a week of pressure from local officials, Park managers, and the adjacent Navajo nation reservation, which has become one of the largest COVID-19 hotbeds in rural America.

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