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Parks in Vancouver, Clark County stick with status quo for time being

Local parks officials are not planning to change any policies to reflect the governor’s announcement that some recreational state lands will reopen Tuesday.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s order, issued earlier this week, marked a slight loosening of restrictions meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. On Wednesday, he said he was extending the stay-at-home order that had been scheduled to expire Monday, and he plans to provide more details Friday.

In Vancouver, city-operated parks and trails have remained open and will continue to remain open with certain precautions in place. Play structures, picnic shelters and sports courts are off-limits, and visitors still need to remain at least 6 feet away from anyone not living in their household.

The exception is Wintler Park, which was closed on April 9. Wintler Park will remain shut until July 31, a decision that Parks and Recreation Manager Julie Hannon had said stemmed from visitors disregarding public health guidelines. The park, which is popular thanks to its beach access, is located at 6400 Beach Drive.

“Nothing has changed for our sites at this time,” said Melody Burton, spokeswoman for Vancouver’s Parks and Recreation department.

If anything, the governor’s announcement might make local parks safer, Burton added, because it’s likely to encourage people to recreate across a broader range of sites and avoid crowding into the few open areas.

“The governor’s easing of previous outdoor recreation orders does allow people to visit state parks and public lands, which will provide more options for those who want to enjoy the outdoors while practicing safe physical distancing,” Burton said.

In a broadcast announcement earlier this week, Inslee said that people will soon be allowed to use lands managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Natural Resources. The sites will only be open during the day – camping is still prohibited.

His order also re-established hunting and fishing as permitted activities, as well as golfing.

“This will open up widespread outdoor recreation, assuming health and safety guidelines continue to be used by Washingtonians,” Inslee said.

“This is a data-driven decision,” Inslee added. “This is a decision we make today, but if this virus were to spring back, we may have to roll back some of these measures again.”

In Clark County, lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources include the Lacamas Prairie Natural Area and the Washougal Oaks Natural Area. Both will reopen to daytime use on Tuesday, as per Inslee’s order.

Areas managed by WDFW and impacted by the reopening (within Clark County) include:

• Vancouver Lake Wildlife Area

• Mount St. Helens Wildlife Area

• Shillapoo Wildlife Area (located just west of Vancouver Lake)

• Cedar Creek Wildlife Area (just northeast of La Center)

• Jenny Creek Wildlife Area (north of La Center)

• Two Forks Wildlife Area (west of La Center)

• Duck Lake Wildlife Area (south of La Center)

The governor also emphasized that cities and counties are free to impose their own restrictions on public parks and trails.

In Camas, parks and trails remain open, but all the parking lots are closed — visitors can only access the recreational lands on foot or by bicycle. As in Vancouver, facilities like picnic shelters and playgrounds are closed. Unlike in Vancouver, where city leaders have contracted with a service to clean and sterilize its park restrooms, restrooms at Camas parks are closed.

Officials in Ridgefield, Washougal and La Center have similarly closed all park facilities, including restrooms, but parks and trails are open. Parking lots in the three cities were not impacted by closures.

Magan Reed, the public information officer for Clark County’s Public Works Department, said that all of the parks, trails and open spaces in unincorporated Clark County remain open, with signs reminding users of social distancing protocol. The county’s playgrounds and restrooms are closed.

“Of course, any reopening will depend on the governor’s and Public Health’s continued guidance around public gatherings, social distancing, and our own staff capacity, which has been significantly impacted during the outbreak,” Reed said.


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