Campers looking to stay on Sand Hollow State Park’s beaches will be turned away starting Monday in order to limit crowds during the coronavirus pandemic.
© Chris Caldwell / The Spectrum & Daily News
Sand Hollow Reservoir Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019.
The park reopened to all Utahns around 10 days ago and since then the park has seen an influx of visitors, especially those looking to camp for extended periods of time, according to park ranger Jonathan Hunt.
“What we’re trying to do is stay open but not have coronavirus issues at the same time,” Hunt said. “We’re looking to maximize the use of the beach and still comply with social distancing.”
Gov. Gary Herbert had issued an order limiting state parks to county residents only. That was lifted on April 17. This weekend, not only was Sand Hollow packed and closed early, but nearby Quail Creek and Gunlock state parks also closed around midday Saturday due to crowding.
Sand Hollow has seven miles of shoreline open to visitors. Around four of those miles are used for day-use and camping. Many visitors who were coming to the park are setting up shop for several days, limiting the space available for day-use visitors on the beach.
“[We want] to allow for a new crowd each day to enjoy the park but they’ll need to find hotels or vacation rentals if they want to be spending the night,” Hunt said. “It will give us more beach for that daily crowd and allow them to spread out throughout the park.”
The Washington County Commission and the local health department are ready to start opening up the county fully by the end of the week, according to a press conference the groups held Monday morning. The county’s tourism industry has been hit hard due to COVID-19, but managing the crowds in the area is a cause for concern.
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Herbert had ordered people traveling to the southwest corner of the state to head home earlier this month as part of his “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive. The area’s “Mighty Five” national parks also closed earlier this month. Last week the president called for all national parks to open quickly. Timelines for individual parks are being worked out at a state and park level.
The restrictions on primitive camping at Sand Hollow are indefinite, for now. Hunt said he hopes to open it back up soon but it may have a more limited system in the future. Campers who are looking to stay at the beach may have to get a reservation for a spot. That will help people know if they’ll have a place to stay when they get to the park and help the rangers better manage the park.
“We want people to get what they’re expecting so we need to have a process of turning people away before they show up,” Hunt said. “That’s much more manageable than a whole bunch of people crossing their fingers hoping they have a spot.”
Lexi Peery is the environment, politics and development reporter for The Spectrum & Daily News, a USA TODAY Network newsroom based in southern Utah. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @LexiFP.
This article originally appeared on St. George Spectrum & Daily News: Coronavirus in Utah: Crowded despite COVID-19 worries, Sand Hollow to close beach campsites