Pasco County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources has reopened select park locations as of Wednesday, April 22, with two of these locations found in Spring Hill. A week later, Hernando County opened all of their parks for public use once again. Both counties list several recommendations for visitors to heed, while enjoying the public green space.
In an effort to allow local residents to enjoy essential recreation activities such as walking, biking, hiking, fishing or running--Crews Lake Wilderness Park, 16739 Crews Lake Drive in Spring Hill, and Upper Pithlachascotee Preserve (https://www.pascocountyfl.net/3795/Upper-Pithlachascotee-River-Preserve), 17135 Minneola Drive in Spring Hill--have been reopened to the public. Federal and state social distancing/gathering guidelines remain in place at both locations, with groups of more than 10 not permitted and social distancing of six feet necessary to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In statements prepared special for the Hernando Sun by Pasco County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources, the department explained the purpose and mission behind the park reopenings.
"Pasco’s local parks, trails and open spaces have always served as places where people can find respite and seek peace and restoration. During this time of uncertainty, Pasco County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources understands that these places are needed now more than ever," read the statement, released through Tambrey Laine, Manager of Media Relations & Communications for Pasco County. "Reopening limited parks assists in meeting the fitness and exercise guidelines, as outlined in federal and state recommendations, by providing facilities for our community to utilize. We are working hard to maintain these spaces and keep them safe, accessible and benefiting our community."
Crews Lake Wilderness Park consists of 113 acres and features an observation tower, bird houses, a paved bike path, nature trails, and a botanical garden. The Suncoast Trail is located near the park and can be accessed via public roads and sidewalks. Upper Pithlachascotee Preserve consists of 69 acres of bottomland forest associated with the Pithlachascotee River and a small tributary - Ryals Branch - crossing the site. Other land types found at the preserve include sandhill, upland mixed forest, and freshwater marshes. Protected wildlife species seen here include the gopher tortoise, Florida mouse, gopher frog, little blue heron and snowy egret. The Preserve includes 5 Geocaches, as well as 2 miles of trails including a 1,500-foot boardwalk. The preserve boasts low-impact amenities and nature trails of packed earth, with the exception of the wooden boardwalk.
Both parks have limited access openings, with restrooms remaining closed unless noted. To ensure the safety of team members and customers, all recreation complexes and community centers, all events, activities, youth and adult sports leagues, special event reservations, pavilions, camp/RV grounds, cabin rentals, field reservations and any other reservations remain closed until further notice.
In addition, Laine relays information regarding safety guidelines for park visitors.
"We ask that all users do their part in a way that respects each other and public health guidance," the guidelines read.
"We encourage all users to follow these recommendations:
• Refrain from using parks or trails if you’re exhibiting symptoms.
• Follow CDC’s guidance on personal hygiene prior to and during use of parks or trails.
• Prepare for limited access to public restrooms or water fountains.
• While on trails, warn other users of your presence as you pass, and step aside to let others pass.
• Follow CDC guidance on the recommended size of social gatherings and maintain proper physical distance at all times.
• Observe CDC’s minimum recommended physical distancing of 6 feet from other individuals at all times. If this is not possible, users should find an alternate location or depart that space."
And at the Tuesday, April 28, Board of County Commission (BOCC) meeting, the BOCC voted to re-open all Hernando County park and beach locations, including Alfred McKethan/Pine Island Park and Rogers Park beach area, starting Wednesday, April 29.
"Residents are encouraged to follow the CDC guidelines and restrictions outlined below while visiting Hernando County park locations," read a news release found at https://www.hernandocounty.us/Home/Components/News/News/4036/18.
These guidelines include:
- No organized sports, events or large gatherings will be permitted
- No rental of county buildings, pavilions, etc. will be permitted
- Visitors are encouraged to follow CDC guidelines regarding social distancing while visiting County parks:
- Stay at least 6 feet from others
- Do not gather in groups
- Wash your hands often
- Cover your face and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
- Cover your cough and sneeze