Columbia -- Following public health protocols, State Parks in South Carolina tentatively plan to reopen on Friday, May 1, on a limited basis. For most parks, that could mean the day-use area that provides access to picnic areas, rivers, lakes, beaches and trails will open. Group facilities like picnic shelters and community buildings, however, will remain closed for the time being, and visitor gathering places like interpretive centers and park offices also will remain closed initially or will operate on a limited scale.
“South Carolina’s State Park Service remains committed to providing service to our state’s citizens and protecting our state’s natural, cultural and human resources,” said Duane Parrish, Director of the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism. “While the re-opening of State Parks will provide much-needed outlets for the citizens of South Carolina to engage in outdoor recreation, SCPRT remains highly aware of the ongoing public health threat posed by COVID-19. SCPRT will continuously monitor visitor usage and adjust visitor services as needed to ensure compliance with the guidance provided by SCDHEC and the CDC.”
Each state park plans to lower its carrying capacity, meaning it will only allow a limited number of visitors at once. Levels vary by park. When a park reaches its threshold, the gates will be closed until the number of visitors decreases.
SCPRT also plans to honor any existing camping and cabin reservations that were scheduled to check in on Friday, May 1. Some state parks are on tap to begin taking reservations for stays that begin May 11, and all park accommodations should be coming back on line as staffing levels return to normal.
State park Visitor Centers are scheduled to reopen on Monday, May 11, and feature proper signage, physical indicators and barriers in place to ensure the safety of staff and visitors. All retail stores and spaces likely will open by Friday, May 15. SCPRT will use SCDHEC and CDC guidance to determine the maximum occupancy in these common area facilities and to create environments conducive to maintaining social distancing rules. State Parks social distancing practices will include both physical and operational measures to limit contact between staff and visitors.
In order to prevent unintentional gatherings and due to the difficulty of effectively cleaning equipment, all playgrounds will be closed until June 1. All playground areas will be cordoned off and signed appropriately. SCPRT may reopen playgrounds at an earlier date depending on visitation volumes and visitor compliance with social distancing and other safety/health guidelines.
Existing reservations for group rental facilities will be cancelled through June 1. These facilities include all shelters and community buildings, wedding venues, group camps and any other facility rented for the purpose of a large gathering. All groups will be given the opportunity to re-book at no additional cost. No fees will be assessed for any cancellation or rescheduling for events occurring prior to July 1. Determinations regarding future cancellations will be made in accordance with the status of health and safety guidelines.
Until further notice, SCPRT will not conduct park programs or tours of historic homes or other historic structures such as the Hunting Island Lighthouse or Atalaya Castle at Huntington Beach State Park. As the SCDHEC and CDC guidelines for crowd size and social distancing are relaxed, SCPRT will develop corresponding operational plans to recommence these activities. Meanwhile, Facebook Live interpretive programming that became popular in March and April will continue on a limited schedule. The Park Service’s Facebook handle is @SC.State.Parks.
“We know the public loves their state parks,” Parrish said. “We believe we’ve found a balance between providing access to parks and keeping visitors and employees safe.”
For more information, contact Dawn Dawson-House at email@example.com and 803-734-1779.