Press Release Mar 26, 2020

Crowds Flood Grand Canyon and Zion Putting Visitors and Park Staff at Risk

The administration needs to immediately close parks that are unable to meet CDC guidelines, before this dangerous situation turns into a crisis.

Statement by Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for the National Parks Conservation Association:

“Many of our most iconic national parks remain open during this public health crisis, and this could come at great risk. National parks are home to some of our country’s greatest natural wonders, and the parks are designed to direct visitors to them. While visitors expect to encounter crowds on popular trails and overlooks under normal circumstances, during this global pandemic it could put them in harm’s way.

“Warnings on the National Park Service website and closed park facilities are not enough to deter people. In fact, the visitors are still coming in droves. Parking lots are full and attractions are too crowded as people try to seek respite in this incredibly stressful time. On a popular trail in the Grand Canyon, a ranger had 600 contacts with visitors in just one day, proving that social distancing just isn’t possible, despite people’s best intentions. If an outbreak were to occur in one of these parks, the rural community hospitals and staff would be overrun.

“Secretary Bernhardt’s refusal to close iconic parks like the Grand Canyon and Zion, despite pleas from national park staff and local communities, is beyond reckless. He is needlessly putting lives at risk by operating as if this is business as usual. He is giving people a false sense of security by inviting them to national parks, despite the risk. The administration needs to immediately close parks that are unable to meet CDC’s guidelines, before this dangerous situation turns into a crisis.

“The safety of park staff, visitors and communities should be the priority. Unfortunately, the administration’s actions are showing otherwise. We urge park visitors to make a plan to explore and enjoy our parks once it is safe to do so again, and not a moment sooner. These are unprecedented times, and it will take all of us looking out for each other to get through it.”

Park closures due to COVID-19 here.

Statement by Kevin Dahl, Arizona Senior Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association:

“It is inevitable that people visiting the Grand Canyon’s south rim right now will encounter social crowding, not the social distancing they are seeking. And this is putting not only themselves in danger, but also the workers in and near the park, as well as the communities that surround it. The Navajo Nation has temporarily closed their community to visitors, and is pleading with the national park to do the same. The Hualapai Nation on the west side of the park took similar action days ago, and is also asking the park to follow its lead. Given the risks associated with thousands of visitors flocking to the Grand Canyon during this time of crisis, and the pleas from people who are most affected by this, it is unfathomable that the administration is dragging its feet in allowing park staff to temporarily close the park.”

Statement by Cory MacNulty, Southwest Associate Director for the National Parks Conservation Association:

“While it may seem harmless to seek refuge at a national park right now, it is actually undermining the efforts of entire communities of people who are heeding the CDC’s guidance and staying home. National parks like Zion are still seeing thousands of visitors every day, all hiking the same trails and gathering in the same areas. Social distancing just isn’t possible at places like this, regardless of people’s best intentions. A chorus of voices, from recreation leaders to local communities, are respectfully asking people to stay home until it’s safe to return to parks and rural communities once again. And NPCA joins them in this ask of all people considering a visit to a national park in this time of crisis.”

###

About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.4 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.