Despite pandemic, Pennsylvania state agencies encouraging responsible outdoor activities

(Wilkes-Barre) Times-Leader (TNS)
Jason Zander, 8 of Leader Heights, holds up his very first trout he caught while fishing with his brother and father at Muddy Creek Forks,Tuesday, April 7, 2020 after the PA Fish & Boat Commission surprised anglers by opening trout season across the state more than a week before the scheduled opening day. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Fish and Boat Commission held a conference call this past week to get a simple message out: Even with Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order because of the coronavirus pandemic in effect, it’s still fine to get out and enjoy all the state’s outdoors have to offer.

The message came with one important caveat, however. Anyone who heads outside for recreation — or any other reason for that matter — need to follow the state’s guidelines on social distancing.

“The governor’s stay-at-home order allows for outdoor activities,” Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources Cindy Adams Dunn said. “The mental and physical affects of outdoor activity are now more important than ever. …

“Just the ability to walk outside, to fish outside is so vital right now.”

Dunn said state parks and forests are open with some limitations. All buildings are closed, as are any restrooms and picnic areas.

“Basically anything that people would touch” is not accessible, according to Dunn.

Other than that Dunn and FBC Executive Director Tim Schaeffer want you to enjoy the outdoors, of course, with a few precautions.

“Stay at home if you’re ill, wash your hands frequently and practice social distancing,” Dunn said.

Both also emphasized that it’s important for anyone who visits a state park to clean up after themselves, taking your own garbage with you when you leave.

Schaeffer called fishing an “inherently social distancing and ethical activity.” And although the FBC won’t be opening its marinas or announcing fish stocking sites as the commission typically does, anglers should feel free to hit Pennsylvania’s waterways.

Both Shaeffer and Dunn urged anyone looking for outdoor recreation to find it close to home, however, not traveling more than 15 minutes from home to find a place to walk, jog, fish or do anything else.

They also suggested having more than just one option when heading out. If you arrive at your first destination and its crowded, head to your second choice.

The PFBC opened the statewide trout season on April 7, a full 11 days before the scheduled statewide opener. That was done, in part, to avoid the large crowds that typically show up on opening day.

In addition, the Pennsylvania Game Commission still plans to open the spring turkey season as scheduled on May 2. That season runs until May 30. Additionally, the youth spring turkey hunt is still set for April 25.

Other outdoor activities that are permitted are walking, running, hiking and biking.

The one notable outdoor activity that is still not permitted in Pennsylvania is golf.