LOGAN, Utah (AP) — With outdoor recreation being one of the few activities available during the COVID-19 pandemic, campsites are undergoing a large uptick in positive and negative use. Local forest rangers are encouraging folks to treat campgrounds respectfully, extinguish campfires and plan ahead for trips.
Cache National Forest Logan District Ranger Jennefer Parker said irresponsible gun shooting, garbage and trespassing are all on the rise this season. However, an increase in unattended fires is prompting the most concern. Parker said multiple citations were recently issued for people who “completely walked away” from their campfires.
“We really do not need to have that happening,” Parker said. “To just walk away and leave it is not acceptable.”
Parker said each time firefighters are called out increases their risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus. Additionally, Parker said the area is drier than usual for this time of year, which could cause a potentially higher fire risk.
“We need people to be really responsible,” Parker said. “We’ve seen other states ban fires — we don’t want to do that.”
In an effort to limit the exchange of cash and cards, Parker said as of Friday all the camping sites — including a certain percentage of sites that were available for first-come-first-serve camping — are now reservable online.
“They’re filling up just as fast they go on,” Parker said. “That was something we did in response to the COVID environment.”
According to Parker, other districts have watched their campgrounds become fully booked in under two hours. Even as weekend camping in April rivaled that of a typical holiday, Parker said, and encouraged campers to be proactive and plan ahead.
“It is definitely a huge increase,” Parker said. “Especially if you’re getting within a four-day window, you’re probably too late.”
While Parker is glad state government is allowing Utahns to camp and enjoy the outdoors — which is not the case in Nevada or Idaho — she urged campsite users to act appropriately.
“To go camping is one of the few things you can do,” Parker said. “But we need them to follow the rules and be responsible.”