Visitors illegally enter North Carolina State Parks despite coronavirus closures

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- North Carolina State Parks have seen an uptick in visitation that could prove dangerous to visitors during the coronavirus pandemic.

"I gotta do something, the gym is closed," one runner said Monday at William B. Umstead State Park.

During the weekend, video showed dozens of cars lining the road outside the closed entrance to the park.

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"We're seeing double-triple the visitation we normally see in our most popular parks-and we're seeing state parks become social gathering places," said Katie Hall, Public Information Officer, State Parks & Recreation.

That is not a good thing.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the huge surges in park visitors sometimes make it impossible for visitors to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Hall also said many of the park's surfaces are porous and can harbor COVID-19 for days even with proper sanitation.

"We don't have the (Personal Protective Equipment) that state parks staff would need to clean restrooms and it's really not possible to keep up with the number of people and keep restrooms clean," Hall said.

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So bottom line, it's not safe or legal to pass through while Umstead is closed.

Still, on Monday morning, ABC11 saw some runners, hikers and cyclists passing through the park, despite the road-closed signs and barricades at the park's entrance.

Park Rangers are now on patrol. Hall said those rangers are able to hand out second-degree trespassing charges if you're caught sneaking around inside the closed park.
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