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Saguaro National Park has joined a coalition of municipalities, federal agencies and outdoor organizations across Southern Arizona urging anyone enjoying public lands, forests, and parks to recreate responsibly. An active wildland fire season and the COVID-19 pandemic have combined to create an unprecedented situation that requires outdoor enthusiasts to plan ahead and practice personal responsibility.

Officials from Tucson Parks and Recreation Department, Town of Marana, Oro Valley Parks and Recreation Department, Coronado National Forest, Saguaro National Park, Bureau of Land Management, Pima County, and Visit Tucson have joined with outdoor organizations including the Arizona Trail Association, Friends of Saguaro National Park, The Wilderness Society, Western National Parks Association, Ironwood Tree Experience, and Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists and others to highlight the importance of mindfully enjoying the outdoors this summer.

Recreation areas overseen by local and national agencies are experiencing higher than normal use as people look for safe and healthy activities consistent with recommendations from health officials. While getting outdoors is great for physical and mental health, many areas have seen an increase in trash dumping and other damaging behavior. “We were already seeing higher than normal use this spring and summer,” said Kerwin Dewberry, Coronado National Forest Supervisor, “With so many people out recreating we must emphasize that we are in full fire restrictions. This means no campfires, no charcoal grills, no shooting, and smoking restrictions apply. Fireworks are always prohibited on the Forest. Let’s take good care of these places that are so important to us.”

“Spending time outdoors has been important for many Americans during this public health crisis. This situation has been complicated further as the wildfire season in southeastern Arizona intensifies. We have a collective responsibility to care for these special places and each other. This is especially important to consider on July 4th weekend because of fireworks,” said Leah McGinnis, Saguaro National Park Superintendent. Fire restrictions in many of these outdoor spaces are currently in effect and these restrictions include open campfires and fireworks.

Together, the coalition urges the following steps:

Before You Head Out on Your Excursion

Know Before You Go: Check the status of the place you want to visit. If it is closed, don’t go. The Bighorn Fire and other incidents have impacted access to popular areas. Check to determine whether additional restrictions are in place. Have alternate locations in mind in case your first destination is overcrowded.

Plan Ahead: Prepare for some visitor centers and restrooms to be closed, and bring essentials like extra water, sun protection, hand sanitizer, and a face covering. Remember that many cities and counties in Arizona now have face mask requirements. Typical requirements are that you must have a face mask with you when you leave your house, and you must wear a face mask in public, including in the outdoors, when you come within six feet of someone else.

Stay Close to Home: This is not the time to travel long distances to recreate. Further, many small and indigenous communities have constrained health care and first responder infrastructures. Be conscious and considerate of the people who live near the areas where you choose to recreate and please do not place additional burdens on those communities.

Once You’re Outside

Practice Physical Distancing: Adventure only with your immediate household. Be prepared to cover your nose and mouth and give others space. If you are sick, please stay home.

Play It Safe: Follow all applicable fire restrictions and fireworks prohibitions. Slow down and choose lower-risk activities to reduce your risk of injury. If you stay closer to Tucson and enjoy lower elevations, do so early in the morning or late in the evening to limit dangerous heat exposure.

Leave No Trace: Respect public lands and communities. Take all your garbage out with you, especially toilet paper.

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