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New DNR and Department of Health guidelines for outdoor recreation during COVID-19

Apr 24, 2020 05:24PM ● By Editor
Photo:  MN DNR

From the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources - April 24, 2020

The DNR and Minnesota Department of Health collaborated to create new outdoor recreation guidelines for use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These guidelines apply to both recreational facilities and the public and are based on Governor Walz’s Emergency Executive Order Allowing for Safe Outdoor Recreation (EO 20-38).

Following these guidelines will help protect you and your fellow Minnesotans from this health threat. You can enjoy the outdoors while doing your part to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Here are some guidelines you should observe whenever you’re outdoors:

  • Practice social distancing (stay at least 6 feet from people from other households). This isn’t just for parks and trails – it is also essential at boat launches, fishing piers, and hunting lands, and anytime you leave your home.
  • Stay as close to home as possible. This is not the time to be traveling long distances to recreate. Cherished outdoor traditions further from home will be there for you later, after the public health situation has eased.
  • Do not host or attend gatherings with people who aren’t members of your immediate household. This includes gatherings like outdoor cookouts or barbeques, because those types of gatherings could spread COVID-19.
  • Explore the range of nearby public lands available to you. If you arrive at a park, water access site, or other public recreation land and see that it is busy, choose a different option. This will allow you to maintain social distancing, and reduce impacts on staff and resources. Also, consider visiting at off-peak times, typically early or late in the day.
  • Do not carpool to outdoor recreational activities with people other than those in your immediate household. Similarly, do not share equipment.
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Know before you go

Get the latest information about what DNR-managed facilities are open on our COVID-19 webpage.

Questions? 
Contact the DNR Information Center by phone at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367), or by email at [email protected].

Here is a list of some of the guidelines.


COVID-19 Outdoor Recreation, Facilities and Public Guidelines

The following guidelines are for outdoor recreational activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, based upon Governor Walz’s Emergency Executive Order Allowing for Safe Outdoor Recreation  PDF  (EO 20-38).  The guidelines address public health protection measures for both authorized outdoor recreational facilities and the general public.  Authorized outdoor recreational facilities do not include facilities that involve gatherings or people in close proximity, such as mini golf, pools, commercial outdoor race tracks, zoos, and concert venues.

These guidelines will be updated periodically, as needed. If you have questions, please select one of the following:

General public questions

Facility and business questions

Guidelines for outdoor recreational facilities

  • Facilities should review and implement steps described in CDC’s Resources for Businesses and Employers , CDC’s Resources for Parks and Recreational Activities , and MDH’s Guidance for Businesses and Employers  to ensure they are up-to-date on implementing safe workplace practices.  
  • CDC recommends that all businesses identify a workplace coordinator who is responsible for COVID-19 issues and preventive activities.
  • Safe workplace practices include actively encouraging ill employees to notify their supervisor and stay home according to public health guidance.
  • Employees should use proper handwashing, observe respiratory etiquette, and avoid using other employees’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools or equipment.
  • Surfaces such as doorknobs, counters, and other items that are high-touch should be regularly cleaned and sanitized. Follow CDC’s Guidance on Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility .
  • Clean and disinfect bathrooms regularly, particularly high-touch surfaces, and ensure they have handwashing supplies. These EPA-registered household disinfectants  are recommended by the CDC.
  • Just as facilities need to ensure that customers are following social distancing while on the premises, employees of the facilities need to also follow social distancing. This means maintaining a physical distance of at least 6 feet between individuals. This distancing for employees should occur both inside buildings and outside such as on golf courses, boat launches, and other outdoor settings.
  • Ensure that access to handwashing/hand sanitizing facilities and supplies are available for employees and customers.
  • Place appropriate signage and other messaging on site, including at entrances and in other locations that can be easily seen by customers and visitors. Print materials are available online at MDH Materials and Resources  and at CDC Communication Resources . Examples of messages:
    • Maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet at all times from others except for members of the same household. “Household” means all the people living in the same home or residence, including a shared rental unit or other similar living space.
    • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; if soap and water not readily available, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
    • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Anyone with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (including fever, cough, or difficulty breathing) should stay home and not engage in outdoor activities. For more information see CDC’s What to Do If You Are Sick .
  • Adapt practices to allow physical distancing of at least 6 feet.
  • Postpone or cancel events, such as fishing or golf tournaments or concerts, that encourage people to congregate.
  • Minimize face-to-face employee and customer interaction. Implement online or other contactless measures to take reservations and payments, or to purchase supplies such as gas or bait.
  • Do not allow the public access to indoor facilities, except for bathroom facilities, facilities that provide food and beverage for take-out, or sales and service facilities specifically addressed below.
  • Remind patrons about physical distancing in outdoor common space.
  • Public and private marinas and docks may only provide storage, docking, and mooring services to slip owners or seasonal renters. Limit access by the general public to boaters purchasing fuel or using access ramps, or for emergency mooring.
  • All private and public campgrounds and dispersed camping sites are closed to recreational camping. Campsites at private and public campgrounds that serve as a primary residence may remain available for occupancy, including seasonal occupancy, by members of the same immediate household provided they do not host overnight guests. For campgrounds that choose to open to non-recreational camping:
    • Communal amenities may not be open for use, except the following may be open to campground residents provided social distancing and enhanced cleaning protocols (see cleaning references above) are followed:
      • Bathrooms/shower buildings
      • Retail food stores
      • Laundry facilities
      • Fish cleaning stations and docks
    • While people can continue to visit campgrounds as outlined above, EO 20-38 discourages unnecessary travel, and asks people to remain close to home.
  • Off-highway vehicle, snowmobile, and watercraft repair, sales and showroom facilities may be open by appointment only.
  • Rental of recreational equipment – including canoes, kayaks and sports equipment – not specifically mentioned in EO 20-38 or in  these guidelines is not allowed at this time.
  • Remove to the extent possible objects that could be frequently touched, such as golf ball washers, rakes, and water coolers. Take measures such as raising cups on golf course to reduce the need to touch the inside of the cup, and leaving the flag stick in golf holes at all times. Encourage customers to avoid touching other customers’ items such as golf clubs or other recreational equipment.
  • At golf courses:
    • Ensure that those sharing golf carts are from the same household; otherwise, single rider carts only.
    • Golf carts must be cleaned and sanitized before and after each use. 
  • EO 20-38 stipulates that outdoor recreation facilities may provide food and beverage for “off-premises consumption,” provided such offerings are consistent with Executive Order 20-04. In the context of outdoor recreation facilities, “premises” means the permanent building and any outdoor dining or patio area.

    • For example, a golf course may provide food or beverage to golfers for consumption on the course during their golf round, or as take-out after their round, so long as the food or beverage is not consumed in the clubhouse or an associated outdoor seating area.

    • Food or beverage carts that travel a golf course or other outdoor recreational facility may dispense packaged food and beverages so long as there are adequate provisions for employee handwashing/hand sanitizing.

    • Paragraphs 2 and 4 of Executive Order 20-04 provide additional social distancing requirements for food and beverage facilities, and those requirements apply to food and beverage facilities at outdoor recreation facilities.

  • Arrange outings such as tee times to have staggered, spaced out timing and ensure physical distancing of 6 feet is implemented.
  • The use of cloth face coverings can be considered as an additional measure to reduce the risk in public areas. Refer to MDH Guidance on When to Wear a Mask . Note that cloth face coverings may help protect others from the wearer’s respiratory droplets, but are NOT a replacement for social distancing. Social distancing must be observed even if face coverings are in use.

Guidelines for the public

Time spent outside provides many benefits. We encourage local day use of parks, trails and other outdoor recreational facilities as a good way to stay healthy, reduce stress, and enjoy time with members of your immediate household. However, it is essential to follow the guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health (see Protecting Yourself and Your Family  and Strategies to Slow the Spread ) and the Centers for Disease Control (see Visiting Parks and Recreational Facilities ) and observe the following practices while recreating outdoors to protect yourself and others and slow the spread of COVID-19:

  • Practice social distancing (stay at least 6 feet from people from other households). This isn’t just for parks and trails – it is also essential at boat launches, fishing piers, and hunting lands, and anytime you leave your home.
  • “Household” means all the people living in the same home or residence, including a shared rental unit or other similar living space.
  • If it is not possible to maintain social distancing throughout an activity – such while playing a sport like basketball or volleyball where participants are often in close proximity – then you should only participate in that activity with members of your household. Keep in mind that even activities and sports that are typically thought of as non-contact – such as doubles tennis or pickleball – may require modification to follow social distancing practices (e.g. pairing only with a member of your immediate household).
  • Stay as close to home as possible. This is not the time to be traveling long distances to recreate. Cherished outdoor traditions further from home will be there for you later, after the public health situation has eased.
  • Do not host or attend gatherings with people who aren’t members of your immediate household. This includes gatherings like outdoor cookouts or barbeques, because those types of gatherings could spread COVID-19.
  • Explore the range of nearby public lands available to you. If you arrive at a park, water access site, or other public recreation land and see that it is busy, choose a different option. This will allow you to maintain social distancing, and reduce impacts on staff and resources. Also, consider visiting at off-peak times, typically early or late in the day.
  • Do not carpool to outdoor recreational activities with people other than those in your immediate household. Similarly, do not share of equipment and maintain social distancing recommendations by the MDH when around people from outside of your household.
  • When enjoying recreational boating:
    • Only boat with those in your immediate household and maintain a minimum six-foot distance from other boats at all times. Beaching or rafting with other boats is not allowed.
    • When launching/loading your boat, give those ahead of you plenty of time and space to finish launching or loading before you approach.
    • Be aware that conditions at water access sites may differ from those encountered in previous years. For example, while DNR-managed accesses are open, spring maintenance is not completed and amenities such as courtesy docks will not be in place in some locations. Other public and private access sites may not be open.
  • Avoid congregating in common areas like trailheads, parking areas, overlooks, fishing piers, boat launches or fueling stations.
  • Avoid contact with shared amenities like playground equipment, picnic tables, and benches. Assume such equipment has not been sanitized. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer if you do come into contact with shared amenities.
  • Respect signs limiting access or providing temporary direction regarding trail or site usage.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Anyone with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (including fever, cough, or difficulty breathing) should stay home and not engage in outdoor activities. For more information see CDC’s What to Do If You Are Sick .
  • The use of cloth face coverings can be considered as an additional measure to reduce the risk in public areas. Refer to MDH Guidance on When to Wear a Mask . Note that cloth face coverings may help protect others from the wearer’s respiratory droplets, but are NOT a replacement for social distancing. Social distancing must be observed even if face coverings are in use.
  • Know the latest information about what facilities are open. For DNR-managed parks and lands, consult the DNR website or call the DNR information center (651-296-6157 or 888-MINNDNR (646-6367)).

We all have a role to play in protecting ourselves and fellow Minnesotans from the COVID-19 health threat. By following EO 20-38 and these guidelines, we can enjoy the many benefits of the outdoors while providing for public health, slowing the spread of COVID-19, and decreasing the potential for added strain on local communities and health care systems in Minnesota.

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