Wildness Important To Many

Check our website and our many digital offerings about the park, suggested one national park website after advising everything had been shut down due to COVID-19.

So, viewing an online video is going to replace a walk in the spring woods? I don’t think so.

Many national parks shut down entirely because of the coronavirus. “This is a complete closure,” one park’s website advised. “No hiking, no biking, no entry from the boundary.”

As so often is the case, West Virginia does it better. Here, some facilities in state parks were closed by Gov. Jim Justice’s order. A few trails leading to often-crowded overlooks were shut down. Lodges, dining rooms, museums, etc., were shuttered.

But you could take a walk in the woods — most of them, anyway — at any state park.


Cabin fever is a very real thing. Many Americans heeded public health officials’ advice that the responsible reaction to COVID-19 was to go home and stay there.

That isn’t a problem for many of us. In my case, the woods are about 100 feet from my back door.

But for millions of people in cities, closing down the parks was denying them an important safety valve. Nothing eases tension like a stroll in the woods, especially this time of the year.

It’s difficult to stay angry when you spot a patch of wild violets or catch a glimpse of a fawn born just days ago. Nothing calms the soul like a trail adjacent to a mountain brook. Showing a child the buds on a tree is a reminder that there can be triumph in the midst of tragedy.

So thank you, governor, for not depriving West Virginians of those pleasures in our state parks.

So, why’d the feds decide a “complete closure” was necessary? Beats me. Panic, I suppose.

Social distancing is a heck of a lot easier to practice in most parks than in, say, your local grocery store. Matter of fact, getting away from the crowds is precisely the reason many people retreat to parks.

A Las Vegas woman, 51-year-old Kimberly Selvage, explained it best. Earlier this year, she set out on the Georgia-to-Maine Appalachian Trail, meaning to hike the whole thing.

She’d never have made it. At least one national park closed even its section of the AT. And Selvage told The Associated Press than when the epidemic hit, her college-age children told her that for her own safety, she needed to come home.

But, she told the AP, “I still think I was safer on the trail.”

She was. And she was happier, by far.

COVID-19 may not be the last epidemic to hit the United States. Next time, don’t shut down the parks.

We need the wildness.

Reach Myer at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.


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