Looking for some safe and healthy fun outdoors? Here’s some advice from Joe Milone assistant professor of recreation management, Recreation, Tourism, and Sport Management Department, on spending time outside during a time when many of us are studying or working from home and practicing self-distancing to avoid the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).
Q: Is it okay to go to a park and take a hike?
A: Hiking is excellent for one’s physical and mental health, which is important in times like this. I just got back from a hike in West Rock Ridge State Park in Hamden with my dog. There were actually quite a few people with their canine companions out on the trail today.
If someone decides to go out for hike, it is absolutely important to minimize exposure to others. As with all the other warnings from local, state, and federal officials, practicing good hygiene and social distancing are key. Parks and trails provide plenty of open space and allow us to keep our distance from others. Do not congregate with a large group of people – that defeats the purpose of social distancing.
Of course, if you are showing symptoms or think you have been exposed to the virus then you should stay home and follow CDC and local public health agency guidelines. In addition, there is a lot we don’t know about the virus or impact on our specific community, so continue monitoring announcements because information is always changing.
Q: How can people prepare for their outing?
A: Research nearby parks. Some parks can be extremely busy, so finding a lesser-visited park could be a good option, but either way do some research before you go. Go during off-hours, if possible, to avoid large groups of people – this also lessens the environmental impact of the trails.
I would choose a trail that will not be crowded. This can be difficult to determine ahead of time, so you might have to change plans when arriving at the park. If a trail looks crowded, find another option. That’s why it is good to bring a map. Close to the SCSU campus, the loop around Lake Wintergreen in West Rock Ridge State Park or the Sleeping Giant State Park tower trail are both very popular hiking spots. However, there are plenty of other trail options at each park to get away from the large crowds.
As always have extra food, water, and, of course, hand sanitizer. Check the weather. Know your skill level and that of the people you are with to determine how long to be out and trail difficulty.
Q: Do you recommend any resources to help people plan their outing?
A: The internet is full of great resources but here are a few to get you going.