Recreation to Open Again in Washington State

Out There Outdoors

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee adjusted the Stay Home – Stay Healthy proclamation on April 27, 2020, to allow for the re-opening of state parks and public lands, state hunting and fishing operations, golf operations, and day-use activities and trails in other public parks and public lands. Starting May 5, 2020, certain outdoor recreational activities will be permitted again with social distancing restrictions and coronavirus-related hygiene requirements. Activities that can resume are:

  • Recreational hunting, fishing, and boating
  • Outdoor exercise, including hiking, running, walking and biking
  • Golfing
  • Day-use activities at public parks and public lands

Camping and overnight stays, including dispersed camping, are still prohibited in state park and on state public lands at this time. No seated indoor or outdoor food service in public parks or any recreational facility is permitted. (See COVID-19 safety requirements below.)

According to Governor Inslee in his latest proclamation, “Washington State is known for a high level of outdoor recreation on its many trails, parks, lakes, beaches and other outdoor recreational areas, and outdoor recreation is a fundamental part of maintaining physical, emotional and mental health, particularly in a time of great stress.”

Photo of paddler on the Spokane River by Aaron Theisen.
Paddling on the Spokane River. // Photo by Aaron Theisen

(To learn more about the state’s robust outdoor recreation industry, here’s a link to information provided by Jon Snyder, Outdoor Recreation and Economic Development Policy Advisor to Governor Inslee. Snyder was the founding publisher Out There Monthly magazine, the predecessor to this magazine, and he previously served on Spokane City Council.)

Still prohibited throughout Washington State are public and private gatherings and multi-person activities for social, spiritual and recreational purposes, regardless of the number of people involved. Activity includes, but is not limited to, community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based, or sporting events; parades; concerts; festivals; conventions; fundraisers; team sports activities, and similar activities that involve a gathering of people other than a household unit. This prohibition continues to apply to planned wedding and funeral events.

According to Governor Inslee, if people fail to comply with the required social distancing and coronavirus hygiene practices while engaging in outdoor recreation, or if the numbers of COVID-19 cases increase, recreational activities may be prohibited again.

COVID-19 Requirements and Recommendations for Re-starting Recreation

Please follow the following requirements when recreation opens again on May 5, 2020.

For Users – Hiking, Recreational Boating and Fishing, and Other Outdoor Activities:

  1. Gatherings are not permitted. Only members of the same household may travel and recreate together. Only members of the same household should travel in cars and boats together.
  2. Physical distancing is required. Keep six feet between individuals outside your immediate household. At trailheads, on trails, and parks, practice extra care.
  3. Launch one boat at a time to give others enough space to launch safely. Leave at least one parking space between your vehicle and the vehicle next to you. Trailer your boat in the same way.

For Employees in the Recreation Industry, including recreational boating and fishing:

  1. Employees authorized by this section are may begin work on April 27, 2020, in preparation for the May 5, 2020, opening.
  2. Unless previously authorized under Proclamation 20-25, locations may not open to the public until May 5, 2020.
  3. No seated indoor or outdoor food service in public parks or any recreational facility is permitted.
  4. No camping, including dispersed camping, is permitted in state parks or on state public lands at this time.
  5. Employees necessary for bicycle and ORV/ATV/WATV rental are authorized to return to work. Under these requirements, no walk-in rental service will be permitted after May 5, 2020. All appointments must be made by telephone or online. All recreational rental bicycles and ORV/ATV/WATVs must be cleaned and disinfected after every use.
  6. Employees necessary to operate trails, public lands for day-use activities, public parks for day-use activities, and public employees supporting recreational hunting and wildlife observation are authorized. This includes employees needed to maintain and improve trails and trail systems.
  7. Employees necessary for boat rental are authorized to return to work. Under these requirements, no walk-in rental service will be permitted after May 5, 2020. All appointments must be made by telephone or online. All boats must be cleaned and disinfected after every use.
  8. Employees necessary to operate marinas, boatyards, and boat launches are authorized.
  9. Public employees directly related to recreational fishing are authorized.
  10. Retail sales are not covered by this proclamation. Only related retail establishments deemed essential under Proclamation 20-25, “Stay Home – Stay Healthy,” are allowed to operate until further notice. These include marina-related retail establishments previously considered essential under current rules allowed to operate.
  11. All employees and employers must follow current Washington Department of Health, Washington Department of Labor and Industries, and CDC guidelines.

See this list of recreational safety recommendations for the re-opening of state parks and public lands and day-use facilities.

Urban fly fishing on the Spokane River. // Photo courtesy of Michael Visintainer.

Additional Information about COVID-19 in Washington State

The COVID-19 disease, caused by a virus that spreads easily from person to person, may cause serious illness or death and has been classified by the World Health Organization as a worldwide pandemic, has broadly spread throughout Washington State and is a significant health risk to all of our people, especially members of our most vulnerable populations. As of April 27, 2020, there are currently at least 13,521 cases of COVID-19 in Washington State with 749 associated deaths. Current models predict that the spread of COVID-19 has started to slow throughout Washington State.

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