Hocking Hills State Park closed because social distancing impossible

Posted at 2:58 PM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 20:56:17-04

Ohio health and parks officials on Friday decided to close Hocking Hills State Park and all of its trails effective at sunset Friday, citing concerns with the spread of coronavirus.

“In order to protect the health and safety of our visitors, we are temporarily closing Hocking Hills State Park,” said Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Mary Mertz. “This was a difficult decision; however, this unique trail system is not designed to allow for adequate social distancing without potential risks.”

Officials cited the challenging terrain of a narrow trail system where stepping off the trail is strictly prohibited. That, they said, makes keeping six feet of distance between visitors nearly impossible.

Stepping off the trail in some areas could result in injury, according to ODNR officials, who also cited limited park staffing that could affect response time and place undue pressure on local emergency personnel if falls or accidents happened.

The closing is the first full closure for any of Ohio’s state parks.

The Hocking Hills closure includes sites such as: Ash Cave, Cantwell Cliffs, Cedar Falls, Old Man’s Cave, Rock House and Whispering Cave. This closure also will include Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve.

State officials have extended a stay-at-home order until at least May 1 to slow the spread of coronavirus.

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