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Missouri State Parks reopen with new social distancing guidelines

"We know how many parking spots there are so we’re watching how many of those fill up," said Park Ranger Angela Carson.

BALLWIN, Mo. — For the first time in weeks, Castlewood State Park opened its gates to those looking to get out of the house. Based on the number of cars pulling in and the people walking alongside the road, you’d think the park never closed.

“We actually went on the website today and we saw it opens today so it was perfect,” said Natalie Hasekamp, who didn’t even know the park was closed.

When Tony Noronha heard the park was opening up, he breathed a sigh of relief.

“Hallelujah,” he said.

Noronha, who has dogs to walk, said having a park with scenic views beats an open school field any day of the week.

“It’s great, it just feels good to be outdoors, to breathe the fresh air, it’s beautiful sunshine and it’s a great day, I’m really grateful they opened up this park, this park is so beautiful,” he said.

Sam Wilson, a senior at Missouri State, said he just got into mountain biking a few weeks ago was very thankful he has a new trail now because he said finding ones before today was challenging.

“I think there was a lot of unnecessary congestion on some of the trails that were still open,” he said.

But with everyone seeking a new adventure after being quarantined for months, the freedom Wilson had been looking for, may soon be crowded with people who have the same idea.

5 On Your Side’s Ahmad Hicks, spoke with a Park Ranger about their strategy to keep everyone safe.

“We know how many parking spots there are so we’re watching how many of those fill up, so that if it becomes more heavily populated, then we will start regulating the front gate so less people can come in,” Park Ranger Angela Carson said.

Carson said rangers are asking everyone to respect personal space when on the trails.

“I respect social distancing and will follow it so if there’s anybody on the trail, I’ll make sure I get out of it and bring the dogs with me so there’s lots of ample room for them to walk,” Noronha said.  

Some who visited the parks chose to forgo face coverings.

“Like I usually wear a mask in a store and everything, but I didn’t bring it here today and I pulled up and I really didn’t see anybody else have theirs on too and it kind of felt normal again for a second so that was awesome,” said Alex Stoner.  

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