The Appalachian Trail Conservancy on Tuesday released a statement urging hikers to postpone their hikes on the trail to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
In a letter to the Appalachian Trail community, Conservancy President and CEO Sandra Marra wrote that, although the conservancy, which has worked to preserve and manage the trail for nearly a century, is unable to prohibit access to the trail, it encourages hikers to stay home and go for a walk around the block instead.
Marra wrote that popular spots along the have seen daily use reach record-breaking levels and added that hiking the trail has become the opposite of social distancing. According to Jorden Bowman, the conservancy’s communications director, multiple sections of the 2,193-mile-long trail were crowded with hikers last weekend. Bowman said the trail is “no longer a viable space to safely practice social distancing.”
Marra emphasized that hikers often eat lunch at picnic tables, take breaks in shelters, use privies and share maps and food with other hikers who could unknowingly have the coronavirus. She also noted that hikers might be unaware that some of the rural communities adjacent to the trail might not feature proper healthcare resources to treat the residents of those communities if a hiker brings COVID-19 in from the trail.
“It is necessary that all hikers avoid accessing the Trail,” she wrote. “The ATC does not want to do too little, too late.”
Meanwhile, the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship’s trails remain open dawn to dusk. But the center, which is located near Harpers Ferry, has paused its group events with more than 10 people.
Morven Park in Leesburg has also kept open its pedestrian entrance on Old Waterford Road for those who want to hike the 1,000-acre property. The park’s gates, parking lots and restrooms will remain closed, though.