SALT LAKE CITY — Another popular recreation destination in Utah is falling victim to the coronavirus pandemic, with Lake Powell closing its boat ramps effective 5 p.m. Monday and owners of moored vessels instructed to keep them docked.
The announcement by the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is delivering another blow to Utah’s tourism industry as public land managers enact restrictions to abide by Gov. Gary Herbert’s directive to stay safe by staying home and emphasizing social distancing.
Boaters have to be off the water no later than by the Monday afternoon deadline, although beaches remain open for swimming and other water-based recreation.
Three of Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks have already closed: Zion, Arches and Canyonlands. Two popular monuments in southeast Utah — Natural Bridges and Hovenweep — are also shut down.
Utah’s two other national parks, Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon, remain open, but with operational restrictions in place that include the closure of visitor centers and Capitol Reef’s Fruita Campground. In addition, the Gifford House — famous for its fresh fruit pies and other concoctions — is off limits.
At Bryce Canyon, none of the bathroom facilities are open except in its general store, which closes at 5 p.m.
The Utah Division of Parks and Recreation reiterated the directive that residents can only camp in parks in the counties in which they reside. The division said it is working with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to step up enforcement of the restrictions and violators will be asked to leave.
As of this date, no state parks have closed, but visitor centers at a least a dozen of the parks are idled.
Across the country, national parks are closing on a day by day basis depending on community and local public health agency concerns related to unsafe practices by visitors.
Last week, the National Parks Conservation Association urged Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to close all national parks, especially in light of seven confirmed COVID-19 cases among park staff.
“To deal with this public health crisis, so many are seeking refuge in our national parks. But the conditions in our parks make this no longer an option,” said Theresa Pierno, the organization’s president and CEO.
“Already-taxed park rangers are coming into contact with hundreds of visitors, personal protective equipment is being rationed and only available for emergencies and park staff are calling out sick because they no longer feel safe going to work. When it’s no longer possible for staff to protect their health, the health of the visitors or the resources they manage, it’s time to close the national parks. And that time is now.”
Some of the nation’s most popular parks have already closed, including Zion, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Grand Teton.