When Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey imposed a stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus, a point stressed throughout his March 30 executive order was that while residents should follow all possible protocols to stay safe, sheltered and maintain an appropriate distance from others in a public setting, they should not restrict their physical activity.
In particular, as the order states, among the “essential activities” included is “[e]ngaging in outdoor exercise activities, such as walking, hiking, running, biking or golfing, but only if appropriate physical distancing practices are used.”
With that said, and considering the recent stretch of warm weather, to say nothing of the increasing desire of many to simply get out of the house, the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation department is remaining as accessible as possible while also staying vigilant.
Park hours for Maricopa County’s mountain parks are 6 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday through Saturday, an exception being Lake Pleasant Regional Park, which is open 6 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday through Saturday.
Also announced, pertaining to Lake Pleasant, the north entrance and north Lake Pleasant area will be closed until further notice.
Park hours for the Hassayampa River Preserve will remain the same (closed Monday and Tuesday, open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
Parks will limit the day-use capacity to comply with Executive Order 2020-12 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which call for social-distancing. Once the park has reached day-use capacity, entrance into the park will be restricted to a one-out, one-in practice or closing completely and reopened when capacity is at a safe number again.
Parks will accept payments via credit/debit cards and annual passes at entry stations only. Cash payments are strongly discouraged but may be made via envelope. Visitors are asked to include the exact change as team members will no longer have cash in the entry stations. Checks will not be accepted.
Nature centers will remain closed and staff are available by appointment only, excluding Lake Pleasant Regional Park. All park playgrounds are closed, as are group/youth campgrounds and all group picnic areas. Restrooms in closed areas will be locked.
Popular trailheads at some parks may experience parking restrictions to limit capacity or will be closed to help ensure safe social-distancing. If parking restrictions are in place, visitors should not park along the roadway or create parking spots.
The online and phone reservation system will be used to book developed and semi-developed campsites. Reservations may be made during business hours by calling 602-506-2930 ext. 1. No reservations will be taken after hours and no primitive, shoreline or boat camping is allowed.
Although Maricopa County’s regional parks and trails, including campgrounds, continue to remain open for public use, officials are adopting the president’s and CDC’s “15 Days to Slow The Spread Coronavirus Guidelines for America.”
The new guidelines recommend: social-distancing; avoiding social gatherings in groups of more than ten people; not using trails if having symptoms of COVID-19, which can include fever, cough and breathing trouble; ensuring there is six to eight feet between other people on the trail, following social distancing guidelines from the CDC; if a favorite trailhead or recreational spot in the park is experiencing overcrowding and congestion, find another area in the park to visit to practice safe social-distancing (Maricopa County's regional park system contains 596-miles of trails, including the 315-mile Maricopa Trail — click here for maps for the Maricopa Trail); bring water, snacks and sunscreen; and, if hiking with pets, clean up after them.
To comply with these and other recommendations, the parks department is canceling all park programs, events and Special Use Permits, closing group/youth campgrounds, canceling group ramada reservation and will stop accepting reservations for group ramadas and group/youth campgrounds. The use of playgrounds is also not recommended at this time.
In addition, all fees related to COVID-19 cancelations will be waived and returned or may be used for a future date. These actions are scheduled to run through April 30, 2020.
The department will continue to monitor county, state, and federal health department recommendations for guidance and provide updates as they impact park and trail operations, and/or public safety.