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Castlewood, Elephant Rocks state parks to reopen in May

Missouri State Parks announced phase one of its plan to get all facilities back to normal operations. However, visitors must still follow social distancing measures

ST. LOUIS — Plans are in place to reopen Castlewood State Park and Elephant Rocks State Park to visitors on Monday, May 11.

Missouri State Parks announced phase one of its plan to get all facilities and locations back to normal operations. While most state parks and sites have stayed open for day-use, the state closed some locations back on April 2 to help keep visitors and employees safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

Missouri State Parks outlined the following measures it’ll take during phase one:

May 4: Concession-operated lodging, dining, marina and retail operations will begin reopening at the discretion of the individual concessionaires and following Governor Parson’s recommended guidelines.

May 11: Castlewood State Park, Elephant Rocks State Park, Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site and State Park and Weston Bend State Park will reopen for day use only.

May 18: The off-road-vehicle riding area at St. Joe State Park will reopen and will require daily permits to be purchased online; quantities may be limited to manage capacity.

Park campgrounds and park-run lodging will stay closed through May 18. The parks department said it continues to evaluate when it’ll be safe to reopen.

Visitor centers, park offices, tours, programs, group camps, enclosed shelters, playgrounds, pools and beaches will remain closed for the time being, as well.

“Never has access to our state parks been more important than during this period of COVID-19 response,” said Carol Comer, director of the Department of Natural Resources. “Missouri State Parks is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for our visitors, volunteers and staff, and we are working toward resumption of additional services as soon as we can do so responsibly.”

Visitors should check individual park advisories on the Missouri State Parks website.

Even though parks are reopening, visitors still must follow the guidance given by the Centers for Disease Control and Governor Mike Parson.

Those measures include:

  • Keep a minimum distance of 6 feet between you and others.
  • Avoid crowded areas and groups of people.
  • Stay close-to-home and travel with only those from your household.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Come prepared and carry hand sanitizers, soaps, wipes and water.
  • Share the trail and warn other trail users of your presence as you pass.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Avoid handshakes and hugs.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow when you cough or sneeze.
  • Pack out what you pack in.
  • Be kind and considerate of others.
  • Most importantly, stay home if you are sick.

“Missouri State Parks is experiencing record crowds as people take advantage of the outdoor opportunities we have to offer,” said Mike Sutherland, director of the department's Division of State Parks. “We ask for everyone’s patience and cooperation as we implement measures to minimize congestion and maintain social distancing at our facilities.”

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