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Are California State Parks Open During the Pandemic?

2020-07-13 12:40:37
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Good morning.

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Today we have another installment of Your Lead, where we answer readers’ questions about how the pandemic is changing daily life in California. Submit your questions here.

Eli Edelson, a reader in Los Angeles, has been sheltering in place since March but wants to take a trip this summer with his friends to go hiking or camping. He wrote: “I am curious about the status of national parks and camping in California. Are they fully open?”

While many of California’s national and state parks are open to the public, there’s a caveat: Visitors still have to social distance, although wide open spaces may make that easier. And just because the scenery has changed, you should take the same health precautions that you would at home, like washing your hands regularly and not traveling if you’re feeling ill.

Additionally, public health officials say that visitors should be from the same household and must remain in small groups. They should wear masks when they aren’t able to stand six feet apart from other visitors.

“The state recognizes the need for people to explore the outdoors, get some fresh air and exercise,” said Gloria Sandoval, the deputy director of public affairs for California State Parks. “That’s why we are increasing access across our state park system provided that Californians do their part.”

Campgrounds in 80 state parks are currently open, and most of California’s national parks are open to visitors, with limitations.

Californians are still discouraged from traveling significant distances for recreation, so it’s best to also choose a park that’s close to home.

Before embarking on a trip, Ms. Sandoval advises first checking the park’s website to make sure it’s still open, as things change quickly. State park rangers are working hard to keep information on their website up to date. People can visit the Reserve California website to make a reservation or check to see if previous reservations still stand. Visitors whose reservations were canceled because of the pandemic were notified by phone or email.

Once you are settled into a campsite, be prepared for limited access to services, like barbecue pits, picnic areas and playgrounds. State park restrooms are open and are being cleaned more frequently. Visitor information centers and museums remain closed, for the most part.

State officials are closely watching counties where there’s been a surge in cases and parks can be quickly shuttered in response.

(See The Times’s map tracking cases in California.)

“We’re monitoring physical distancing and visitation, and if there is a need for us to toggle back on some of these opportunities to increase access we will definitely do so,” Ms. Sandoval said.

Mr. Edelson, who works as a TV writer, said that Yosemite National Park was on the top of his travel wish list. The park has partially reopened, having reduced the number of vehicles allowed to enter. But because of the park’s distance from his home in Los Angeles, he may have to wait a little longer to see El Capitan and Half Dome in person.

We want to hear from you. Ask your question about life during the pandemic here.


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My colleague A.O. Scott reviewed the film “Palm Springs,” a comedy set in the aforementioned city and starring Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg. The film, which Mr. Scott calls “wildly funny” and “admirably inventive,” takes some unexpected twists and turns. So does his review.

Read the full review here.


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Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.


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