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Washington state parks, DNR land close after Inslee's stay-at-home order

All state-managed parks, wildlife areas, and water access areas are closed for at least two weeks in Washington state.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — All of Washington's state-run parks, wildlife areas, water access areas, and DNR-managed land are closed for at least two weeks.

Camping and other overnight accommodations on state-managed recreation land is closed through April 30. That includes roofed accommodations such as cabins, yurts and vacation houses. 

Park entrances and facilities are closed and on-site services are suspended. Essential staff will be present to "preserve and protect resources." 

The closures follow Gov. Jay Inslee's stay-at-home order to slow the spread of coronavirus. 

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources is closing all public lands that it manages through at least April 8. DNR manages nearly 6 million acres. 

"One of the things we found is this last weekend, we had unprecedented amounts of people in campgrounds, more than we usually see at the height of holidays and the height of hunting season," said state Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. "We also saw unprecedented numbers of people going to trails like Mt. Si and Tiger Mountain and enjoying the outdoors as they had more time on their hands. The problem is there's no ability to maintain a six foot rule on those trails and recreation areas, and they were packed and people were in very close quarters."

Franz said they didn't have a better option to keep people separated.

"I believe it's our responsibility to make sure we're taking every step and precaution to prevent the spread of this disease," she said. "And if people want to get outdoors they can still take a walk in their neighborhood."

Isaiah Swanson hiked Mt. Si Wednesday - one last outing before the closure. Still - he said it felt like the right decision.

“I think it’s important," he said. "The more people really do social distance themselves, then we can get over this. If it stops people from partying on the beach, that’s great.”

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission manages more than 100 state parks and properties totaling approximately 120,000 acres. 

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife manages about 1 million acres of land, 33 wildlife areas, and nearly 500 water access sites.

Cities across the state have already begun setting limits to their parks. Seattle, Bellevue, Burien, Lynwood and Everett all shut down park playgrounds ahead of the governor’s speech. At parks in Seattle, Burien and Federal Way, crews used caution tape to cover swing sets and jungle gyms. In Tacoma, park bathrooms, parking lots, playgrounds and sport courts are closed.

Gov. Inslee's stay-at-home order stopped short of shutting public parks down completely. He encouraged people to go outside and take walks or ride bikes — while keeping their distance from others. 

“If you want to have parties on the beach or play pick-up basketball at the park, or have sleepovers, these are no longer allowed for at least a couple of weeks,” he warned.