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Beltzville, other parks, expected to be crowded

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn reminded potential state park visitors the combination of expected fair weather and a holiday weekend could bring crowded conditions to many parks throughout Pennsylvania.

Dunn said pandemic precautions remain in effect. She stressed the need for social distancing and the wearing of masks everywhere when within 6 feet of others or around those not sharing the same roof.

“Weather, of course, is the determining factor in turnout at all our state parks and last weekend saw all our parks heavily visited,” Dunn said. “Crowding forced one-day closings at two southeastern state parks - Beltzville in Carbon County and Marsh Creek in Chester County - but park officials expect crowding to be an issue at other state parks if weather is hot and dry this coming Fourth of July weekend.”

The secretary explained prior July Fourth experiences and the fact holiday falls within a weekend this year create a very real potential for capacity-forced closures at Beltzville; French Creek State Park in Berks and Chester counties; Marsh Creek; and Neshaminy and Nockamixon in Bucks County.

“We fully understand the value of the outdoors experience during these trying times, and we encourage park visitors to spread out to other less popular state parks and consider off-times or days other than the weekend,” Dunn said. “For would-be campers on this eve of a holiday weekend, all park campsites are booked, but so-called ‘primitive camping’ possibilities still exist in many of our state forests. State forests also provide excellent avenues to hiking, picnicking and other outdoors activities.”

State park swimming beaches and pools are limited to 75 percent capacity. When parking lots reach that capacity, both will be closed to would-be swimmers until crowds lessen.

Dunn said recent Bureau of State Park attendance figures show people turning to the outdoors in record numbers. May 2020 attendance reports show 5.8 million visitors compared to 4.2 million last year. The parks system increased by over 1.5 million visitors, a 36 percent increase, and 18 parks experienced more than a 100 percent increase.

Due to anticipated crowded conditions, Dunn noted it’s a good idea to have several locations in mind for outdoor activities so you can move on if the first spot is crowded or closed.

Dunn said visitors can help keep state parks and forest lands safe by following these other practices:

• Avoid crowded parking lots and trailheads

• Bring a bag and either carry out your trash or dispose of it properly

• Clean up after pets

• Avoid activities that put you at greater risk of injury, so you don’t require a trip to the emergency room

• Don’t hike in groups - go with those under the same roof, and adhere to social distancing

• Take hand sanitizer with you and use regularly

• Avoid touching your face, eyes and nose

• Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with a tissue or flexed elbow

• If you are sick, stay home

People walk along Pohopoco Drive last Saturday when the beach was closed because it reached capacity. Crowds are expected this weekend, too. COPYRIGHT LARRY NEFF/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS