By Sarah Garcia - July 17, 2020
July is National Park and Recreation month, and amid the COVID-19 pandemic, people are turning to their local parks more than ever before.
According to the National Recreation and Park Association, over 80% of U.S. adults agree that visiting their local parks, trails and open spaces is essential for mental and physical well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"“Anything outdoors with wide open space has virtually no risk of transmission of the virus."- Dr. John Greene, chair of the Infectious Diseases Department at Moffitt Cancer Center
“Anything outdoors with wide open space has virtually no risk of transmission of the virus,” said Greene.
But there are a few things to keep in mind when venturing out.
Greene shared the importance of avoiding crowded areas and keeping a six-foot distance from other parkgoers. “Wear a mask if you must visit a crowded area, and in common areas like restrooms. And remember to always wash your hands after touching highly trafficked areas.”
In adherence with local ordinances, many parks are requiring face coverings inside buildings. Check park websites before visiting to see if any other special requirements or restrictions are in effect.
Top Parks Around Tampa Bay
For those who live in or are visiting the Tampa Bay area, here are some must-see nature parks to visit this summer:
- Lettuce Lake Park Located at the northern edge of Tampa, the park offers over 200 acres of protected natural land along the Hillsborough River and includes a loop trail and boardwalk for up close views of cypress swamps.
- Hillsborough River State Park Just minutes from Downtown Tampa, Hillsborough River State Park has seven miles of hiking trails and the chance to see class II river rapids.
- Alafia River State Park 17 miles southeast of Tampa, Alafia River State Park is a reclaimed phosphate mine and has some of the greatest elevation changes in the state. The park is perfect for mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, canoeing and fishing.
- Weedon Island Preserve This natural preservation area is located on Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg, just a short drive from Tampa. The over 3,000 acre natural area is perfect for hiking, birdwatching, fishing and kayaking.
- Upper Tampa Bay Park Located west of Tampa, Upper Tampa Bay Park has multiple hiking trails and is perfect for exploring natural ecosystems, including a mangrove-lined estuary.
Other Tips to Stay Safe
In addition to take precautions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to plan ahead to stay safe when spending time outdoors and in the summer sun.