As Washington state locked down for coronavirus quarantine, outdoor recreation was one of the last bits of regular life to end; state parks shuttered in late March, a more stringent closure than California and Colorado park systems. By April, Washington's recreational fishing and shellfishing was prohibited (and even the spring turkey hunting season was postponed!). On Monday, Governor Inslee announced that some outdoor recreation is coming back.
The big news: Restrictions on many day-use facilities will lift on May 5, meaning many (but not all) state parks and trails will reopen. Also no longer off-limits: water-access ramps and personal boating. No party barges, though—water trips are to be immediate family only, and no rafting boats together, Seafair-style. Fishing season will ease restrictions slowly, with no shellfish at first. Golf will no longer be a prohibited activity statewide, but foursomes are allowed only with players from the same household. "This is not a return to normal today. The virus is too rampant to allow that," said Inslee.
This move could be reversed, the governor noted: "If this virus were to spring back, we might have to roll back some of these measures again." Data, not planned dates, remain the state's guideposts. Social distancing is still required in outdoor spaces, including stepping off hiking trails to allow six feet between hikers, and recreation is to be done with household members only. Camping on state lands is still off the table. Inslee's directive even takes into account that some state sites may be too overrun to reopen. (Like, perhaps, Mount Si's super popular hiking trail, or big ocean beaches that abut small towns on the coast.)
Of course, it's not quite as simple as dropping the velvet rope on outdoor play. In Washington, hiking, biking, fishing, camping, and other outdoor activities are done on lands controlled by different entities—cites, counties, states, or the federal government—and each has its own stipulations. This news doesn't open, for example, Alki Beach or national forest trailheads or Mount Rainier National Park. But Hilary Franz, commissioner of public lands, noted that they're working with federal partners to coordinate efforts, so there may be news from other recreation organizations soon.
In her remote remarks on the governor's announcement, Franz wasn't afraid to use that oh-so-magical word that Inslee's careful to de-emphasize: normal. "I truly think returning people to connecting with nature is the first step in a return to normalcy," she said.