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Heading outdoors this weekend? Here’s where you can and can’t go

‘If it’s closed down and I can’t come out here at all, I’ll be disappointed’

SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA – As people in Southwest Virginia prepare to get fresh air this weekend, some popular spots are now closed to limit the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19).

On Friday, Salem resident Barry Kelley spent the morning fishing at Carvins Cove in Roanoke County. He’s been fishing there since he was four years old.

“I fish a lot and have all my life. There’s not a huge opportunities in the valley. There’s only a few places to go," said Kelley.

Matthew Webb, a 19-year-old student from North Carolina, drove all the way to Virginia to camp along the Appalachian Trail this weekend.

“I’m doing school online right now. So, like, I’m kind of stuck in the house a lot and it’s hard to get out. But yeah, this is a great motivator to come outside, though. I’m really excited for this trail," Webb said.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, big changes are coming to both popular outdoor recreational areas, and more, during the outbreak.

Carvins Cove is limiting parking at the boat landing, closing all public bathrooms and picnic areas, and stopping boat rentals. Hiking and biking trails will stay open, but you need to stay in groups less than 10 people.

“If you come and there is not a parking spot available, you will not be able to stay,” said Sarah Baumgardner, the public relations director for the Western Virginia Water Authority, which owns the reservoir.

The U.S. Forest Service temporarily closed all trail heads, facilities and access points to the Appalachian Trail (AT).

However, the AT is technically still open for hiking, but people are discouraged from using it or camping overnight.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy and other volunteers who maintain and work to conserve the trail, just sent a letter to federal officials requesting them to close the AT altogether through April 30, writing:

“...the lack of uniformity across our connected units is causing confusion and preventing appropriate social distancing...”

Roanoke City just closed its paved greenways until at least April 30. Greenways in Roanoke County, Salem and Vinton are still open, according to the Roanoke Outside Foundation.

All Virginia State Parks, including Smith Mountain Lake and Claytor Lake, are open for daily use only. The beaches are closed except for exercise and fishing.

Kelley said that’s good news, for now.

“If it’s closed down and I can’t come out here at all, I’ll be disappointed," Kelley said. “But I’ll live with it.”

Different cities and towns across southwest Virginia have made different decisions about whether or not to close playgrounds or parks, so it’s important to check before you go.

Local authorities will be monitoring public, outdoor spaces this weekend and if there continue to be large gatherings, there could be more closures.


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