RALEIGH — Citing the potential for nicer weather bringing people to the region’s state parks and spreading COVID-19, N.C. State Parks announced that Elk Knob State Park, Grandfather Mountain State Park, New River State Park and Mount Jefferson State Natural Area are closed, effective March 27.
“We have made the closures … with the safety and wellbeing of our visitors and staff in mind,” stated Dwayne Patterson, director of N.C. State Parks.
According to N.C. State Parks spokesperson Katie Hall, the state office got letters from the emergency management directors in Watauga and Ashe, who said they were making the request for closure in consultation with AppHealthCare, the district health department in Watauga and Ashe counties.
Hall said the emergency management directors were anticipating large crowds the weekend of March 28-29.
Previously, several state parks across North Carolina were closed because the office said people were not adhering to social distancing guidelines amid increased attendance.
Also on March 27, Valle Crucis Community Park announced in a Facebook post that it would temporarily be closing to all visitors.
"We had hoped to keep the park open for walking and fishing and had placed signs throughout the park yesterday advising visitors that facilities like the playgrounds, shelters and basketball court were closed to prevent community transmission of COVID19," the park stated. "In spite of this, yesterday we logged nearly 200 cars in the park between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. These would be VERY high car counts even for a summer day. This included large groups using all of the posted closed facilities, a problem that we know will only increase with the beautiful weather ahead."
On March 26, recreation facilities at recreation sites in the National Forests in N.C. were temporarily shut down. The closures include picnic pavilions, shooting ranges and all restrooms, including those at trailheads and other recreation sites in Pisgah National Forest.
These shutdowns are in addition to previous announcements about developed campgrounds, several large developed day use areas, visitor centers and Off-Highway Vehicle trail systems, which remain temporarily shut down.
Forest visitors can still enjoy non-motorized trails and dispersed camping at this time, as long as they follow social distancing guidelines.