Garfield County announces additional recreation closures to keep emergency volunteers safe

Some of the terrain in Garfield County's Escalante area, date unknown | Photo courtesy of the Garfield County Sheriff's Office. St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Garfield County, in cooperation with the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, the Bureau of Land Management and the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, announced an emergency recreation order Tuesday temporarily closing several recreation sites within the county due to impacts related to COVID-19.

The order comes on the heels of the closure of Bryce Canyon National Park Tuesday, which is also located in Garfield County.

Closures apply to all recreationists but do not affect ranchers and miners who are operating under specific permits, according to a Garfield County press release.

The following areas are temporarily closed for recreational use:

  • Upper and Lower Calf Creek Falls.
  • Deer Creek Campground.
  • All Escalante canyons. 
  • Devil’s Rock Garden. 
  • Zebra Slot Canyon.
  • Burr Trail (Long Canyon Slots, Big Pines Camp area, etc.).
  • Irish Canyons including Sandthrax Camping area. 
  • Hog Springs Canyon.
  • Star Springs Campground. 
  • North Wash. 
  • Ticaboo/Bullfrog area. 
  • And all other recreation sites where proper social distancing practices cannot be achieved.

Garfield County Commission chairperson, Leland Pollock told St. George News closures will help protect the area’s volunteer emergency and rescue personnel who already risk their lives to help people who are injured, lost or who are otherwise in need of rescue.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Bureau of Land Management, St. George News

Because of the remote and tight locations of many of the impacted areas, Pollock said their volunteers would be put in further danger if they were to have to rescue a COVID-19 positive patient.

All of Garfield county’s emergency responders, including ambulance services, are volunteers, Pollock said.

Pollock also said that many of the closures are for areas where following proper social distancing practices are nearly impossible.

Pollock said times like these are why he is adamant about having local control and local authority so they can look at the areas that are being impacted and make the best decisions for the people of the county.

“A lot of people in the area are concerned about their safety,” Pollock said, adding that they are listening to county residents and working hard to address their concerns and keep them safe.

The county hopes to reopen the areas as soon as possible, the press release said, but added that for now, they are in place indefinitely.

“Garfield County Officials recommend following Governor Herbert’s, ‘Stay Safe, Stay Home’ directive during these unprecedented times. When this passes, Garfield County looks forward to again welcoming recreators and visitors to visit the many scenic wonders throughout the area; however, during this pandemic, it is not the time to vacation,” the press release said.

Though the closures put an added strain on the county, which relies primarily on a tourism economy, Pollock remains hopeful that they will pull through it.

“We’ve got through a lot of things, and we’re going to get through this,” he said.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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