Time was when getting outdoors for some fresh air was as healthy a choice as an apple a day.

Now state and health officials want people to stay home to help slow down and contain coronavirus. Still, recreating outside is still recommended, but with a great deal of caution.

“As more parts of Vermont see closures and recommendations for social distancing, we all need to find ways to manage the stress and uncertainty,” said Michael Snyder, Forests, Parks and Recreation Commissioner. “A daily walk, run or hike can provide real benefits. Just practice social distancing.”

Julie Moore, Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources, joined Gov. Phil Scott and the health commissioner for a press conference on Friday and spoke about getting outside without increasing the risk of spreading the contagion.

“We need to choose smart ways when we’re thinking about recreation,” she said. “Nature is helping to maintain our physical, mental and even spiritual well-being.”

Moore said get outside, but stay close to home. “Under normal circumstances I’d be the first person to encourage everyone to discover all that our state and in particular our state parks and state lands have to offer in terms of outdoor recreation opportunities, but in these unprecedented times it’s important to be smart about it,” she said. “Now is not the time to explore far-flung corners of Vermont, but rather to focus on backyard adventures.” she said.

Outside And Close To Home

Locally, the St. Johnsbury section of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail is open, although still snowy, icy or muddy in spots.

Work on the extension of the path from Bay Street to the downtown has begun, but active construction is on hold until the emergency order is lifted, said St. Johnsbury town manager Chad Whitehead.

“The St J-owned section of the path is open at the moment, as well as our parks, and we remind people to respect social distancing guidelines and make sure to keep your pets on a leash,” he said. The same applies to the town forest behind Leonard Field on Concord Avenue. Trails are open, he noted, but the pavilion is closed. He also said public playground equipment is off limits.

Lyndon State Forest is open as well. “All of our state land is open to the public,” said Louis Bushey of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation, in a Friday email. “There are instances when we close certain infrastructure such as roads and trails to protect them during the spring mud season, but the public land is still available for use.

“The soils at Lyndon State Forest are very well drained, and once snow melts from them, they usually dry in short order. If they are still covered in snow, people are still welcome to walk or snowshoe on them as well. I would encourage people to check the parking lot before driving in to make sure it isn’t soft as the frost leaves the ground.”

Kingdom Trail Association (KTA) has decided to close until further notice, the organization announced Friday.

During mud season, “We are always closed during this in-between time to protect natural resources and future conditions of the trails,” KTA Executive Director Abby Long said in a website message. “We have decided to remain closed, until further notice, due to these unprecedented times we are all experiencing. Together with the Vermont Trails & Greenway Council, Vermont Trails Alliance, and Vermont Dept. of Forest, Parks & Recreation, Kingdom Trails and other trail networks around the state have evaluated the current status of our trail systems in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and Governor Scott’s Executive Order to ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe.’”

If You Do Go Outside To Recreate …

• Don’t crowd. Stay at least six feet away from others when in a public setting, including the outdoors. Outdoor crowing isn’t any better than indoor crowding.

• Go out only if you’re feeling healthy.

• Wash hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If those aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol.

• Avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs, handrails, and playground equipment.

• Leash your dog. They are members of your household and need to keep their social distance as well (most standard leashes are six feet in length).

• Engage in low-risk activities. Now is not the time to try something extreme and end up in the hospital, taxing an already-overburdened health care system.

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