HIGH COUNTRY — Following the announcement by Gov. Roy Cooper on May 4 that parks and trails were encouraged to reopen during Phase 1 of the state’s reopening plan, local state parks were preparing for an influx of visitors.

State parks in the High Country that were open to visitors beginning on May 9 include Grandfather Mountain State Park, New River State Park, Mount Jefferson State Natural Area and Elk Knob State Park, according to the N.C. State Parks website.

“Trails and restrooms at currently closed state parks will reopen on Saturday, May 9,” states an announcement on the website.

While trails are reopening to encourage outdoor exercise, some restrictions will still be in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Katie Hall, information officer for all N.C. State Parks, said it’s important for visitors to remember that there are closures in place for “campgrounds, visitors centers and other gathering areas” that will remain closed during Phase 1.

“Trails and restrooms will open, (along with) some boat ramps,” Hall said. “We are asking that visitors maintain social distance and be prepared for long lines to enter parks and use restrooms,” adding that it may be convenient for visitors to “bring their own water bottles.”

Grandfather Mountain State Park Superintendent Kevin Bischof said visitors should note that the Grandfather Mountain attraction is operated by the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation and “is separate from the state park,” meaning that it will not be opening this weekend.

“Visitors to Grandfather Mountain State Park will be able to access state park property, but this will not grant them access to the attraction,” Bischof said.

Additionally, he noted that the expected influx of visitation beginning May 9-10 may “result in temporary closures as parking lots fill and/or facilities become unsafe due to the dangerous conditions resulting from crowding.”

The trails, Profile Trail bathroom facility and parking lot will be open at Grandfather Mountain State Park from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. on May 9.

Hall said that state park rangers “will be stuck directing traffic and trying to keep people moving in areas where too many people are gathered. They will have personal protective equipment and will maintain social distance from visitors.”

The park office at Grandfather Mountain State Park isn’t expected to open until Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan.

Additional resources and guidance from N.C. State Parks can be found at https://www.ncparks.gov/OPEN.

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