Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism has joined forces with more than 50 organizations throughout Washington State in a Recreate Responsibly Coalition to provide practical advice for enjoying outdoor recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic, while limiting the spread of the virus and ensuring that our public lands stay open.
The coalition has developed six quick tips for outdoor recreation, based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), public health guidelines and recreation experts. Whether for hiking, biking, running, walking, boating, paddling, fishing, hunting or riding (a horse or a dirtbike), these tips offer advice for how to recreate responsibly during this public health crisis, especially during Washington State’s Safe Start re-opening Phase 1 and Phase 2. From what to consider as you plan your adventure, to how far you should travel — the Recreate Responsibly tips provide outdoor recreation guidelines.
Six tips to help you #RecreateResponsibly
- Know Before You Go: Check the status of the place you want to visit in advance. If it is closed, don’t go. If it’s crowded, have a plan B.
- Plan Ahead: Prepare for facilities (such as restrooms) to be closed, pack your own lunch and bring essentials like hand sanitizer, gloves, a face covering (and a bag for your own waste items).
- Stay Close to Home: This is not the time to travel long distances to recreate. Most places are only open for day use.
- Practice Physical Distancing: Adventure only with your immediate household. Be prepared to cover your nose and mouth and give others space. If you are sick, stay home.
- Play It Safe: Slow down and choose lower-risk activities to reduce your risk of injury. Search and rescue operations and health care resources are both strained.
- Leave No Trace: Respect public lands and communities and take all your garbage with you.
“Bellingham and Whatcom County are home to a vibrant cross-section of national, state, county and city public lands and waterways that are treasured by locals as well as visitors. The abundance of outdoor recreation is what makes our region a popular travel destination,” said Annette Bagley, Director of Marketing for Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism. “However, now is the time to follow the Governor’s guidelines and re-opening phases carefully, county by county. Our role is to provide constantly updated information about the status of activities in our region to help the public make informed decisions.”
“As Washingtonians, we continue to fight to slow the spread of COVID-19. As a community that treasures the outdoors, we are so profoundly grateful to get back outside. It is one small step back to normalcy for all of us,” said Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “Due to our shared sacrifice and the heroic work of our first responders, doctors and nurses, we can now begin reconnecting with nature again. However, we all must take the proper precautions to keep our communities, our families and ourselves safe from the virus so we can continue to enjoy the healing powers of nature.”
Brought together under the leadership of Washington Trails Association, outdoor retailer REI and state land managers, government agencies, nonprofits and outdoor businesses, the newly formed Washington Recreate Responsibly Coalition brings together more than 50 organizations to simplify and amplify the guidance of Washington State Governor Jay Inslee — to make recreating responsibly easier to remember, follow and share. And the work of the Washington coalition has begun to help shape the national conversation.
“It became clear pretty quickly that there were a lot of similar conversations happening. It made sense for us all to come together to agree on clear and consistent guidelines that everyone could use,” said Andrea Imler, Washington Trails Association.
The coalition realized that harmonizing these simple guidelines would increase the understanding and awareness of these shared best practices across the state, and potentially beyond. REI, one of the founding members of the Recreate Responsibly Coalition, has a reach beyond the state’s boundaries and quickly saw the potential to channel this energy nationwide.
“Spending time outdoors has been important for many Americans during this public health crisis,” said Eric Artz, President and CEO of REI Co-op. “The #RecreateResponsibly coalition is an inspiring example of what’s possible in this state when organizations come together with a shared passion and a clear goal. By simplifying and amplifying guidance on how to recreate reasonably, we are keeping ourselves healthy, supporting our land managers and working together to keep our public lands open. This is a collaborative model we hope to see take off at the national level and in other states.”
The Coalition recognizes this is a first collective step. As more people get outside, and as governments update their COVID-19 policies, the guidance may need to be updated. In addition, different activities— climbing, off-roading, trail maintenance and restoration, for instance — may require additional protocols. The Coalition hopes to synthesize and amplify that additional guidance for the benefit of the broader community, too.
The reality is that the impacts of this pandemic on recreation and public lands and waters will be felt for months, and maybe years, to come. The quick, collective response of the outdoor community shows how a love of nature can bring us together.
Members of the Washington Recreate Responsibly Coalition
- Access Fund
- American Whitewater
- Back Country Horsemen of Washington
- Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism
- Boys & Girls Club of South Puget Sound
- Cascade Bicycle Club
- City of Spokane Parks & Recreation
- Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
- Colville National Forest
- Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance
- Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance – Eastern WA Chapter
- Gifford Pinchot National Forest
- Inland NW Land Conservancy
- Interim CDA
- King County Parks
- Methow Valley Trails
- Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust
- Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
- Mule Deer Foundation
- National Forest Foundation
- National Park Service – Mt. Rainier National Park
- National Park Service – Region Office
- North Cascades National Park
- Northwest Marine Trade Association
- Northwest Motorcycle Association
- Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
- Olympic Hiking Co
- Olympic National Forest
- Oregon Trails Coalition
- Outdoor Alliance
- Outdoor Asian
- Pacific Crest Trail Association
- Pacific Northwest Four Wheel Drive Association
- Recreation Northwest
- Spokane Parks Foundation
- Spokane Regional Health District
- The Mountaineers
- The Wilderness Society
- Trailkeepers of Oregon
- Trout Unlimited
- U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region
- Visit Rainier
- Washington Alpine Club
- Washington National Park Fund
- Washington Off Highway Vehicle Alliance
- Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife
- Washington State Department of Natural Resources
- Washington State Parks
- Washington Trails Association
- Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition
- Youth Experiential Training Institute