ALBANY – The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation says getting outdoors and connecting with nature is a way to help maintain our mental and physical health during the current COVID-19 public health crisis. Scientific studies show that time outside in nature, especially among trees, significantly reduces stress and anxiety, lowers blood pressure, improves mood, energy, and sleep, and boosts the immune system.
While indoor spaces and restrooms at the DEC environmental education centers, hatcheries, and other public facilities are closed out of an abundance of caution to prevent community spread of COVID-19, our grounds and trails are open to welcome visitors during daylight hours, seven days a week. Any entry fees are waived. Public trails in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks and State Forests throughout the state are also always open (please note: there is still snow in many areas, please check local conditions). Find a location near you at www.dec.ny.gov.. As always, State Lands and facilities are being monitored by DEC Forest Rangers and other staff, though interactions with visitors will incorporate social distancing to limit the potential spread of COVID-19.
Families with children at home during this time are encouraged to visit DEC’s education webpage to find activities to help explore nature and fun outdoor activities under “Kids G.O (Get Outside)” and “Nature Activities,” plus lesson plans on a variety of topics for different grade levels in “Educator Lesson Plans” and “Hudson River Lesson Plans.” In addition, students can read about nature in “Conservationist for Kids.”
In addition, New York State sporting licenses for anglers and hunters are available on DEC’s sporting license webpage.
DEC will provide updates periodically via email, social media, and at www.dec.ny.gov. We will also be available to respond to questions or concerns regarding visitation opportunities at contact @ dec.ny.gov.
While enjoying outdoor spaces, please continue to follow the CDC/NYSDOH’s guidelines for preventing the spread of colds, flu, and COVID-19:
- Try to keep at least six (6) feet of distance between you and others.
- Avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, and kissing.
- Wash hands often or use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
- Avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs, handrails, and playground equipment.
DEC recommends avoiding busy trailheads. Find the trails less traveled and visit when trails may not be as busy during daylight hours. Remember to always be safe and sustainable when recreating outdoors. Learn more about how you can protect natural spaces when exploring outdoors by following the seven principles of Leave no Trace. Please note that campgrounds, boat launches, and other gated facilities that do not typically open until late spring or early summer will open and operate as usual. Visit the campground and day-use area webpage for more information.