HURRICANE — Following a busy weekend, and in order to protect against the spread of the coronavirus, Sand Hollow State Park closed the beach to primitive camping effective Monday.
Sand Hollow State Park manager Jonathan Hunt told St. George News that the designated campground will remain open, but unorganized, primitive camping along the beach will be closed until further notice.
“Historically, we’ve allowed people to pick their own location on the beach and stay overnight, and really the only restriction we had was that 14-day camping limit,” Hunt said. “Some people come, stay a week there, and it’s fantastic. It’s right on the shoreline of the lake.”
But after the busy weekend, when the demand was higher than the available space, they had to make a change.
“When we just had those crowds show up last weekend, we realized that allowing people to pick their own spot was not working,” he said.
Camping at Sand Hollow will continue with the normal reserved campground reservations, and people will be allowed to come during the day. But at nighttime, by 10 p.m., anyone without a reservation will need to leave the park.
A primary factor in deciding to close primitive camping came after Sunday, when, unlike Saturday, the park did not have to close.
“Campers didn’t stay over Sunday night, and so we were able to accommodate a lot more people. When the campers leave that opens up more access to the beach — we have almost five miles of beach — so without the campers, it gives us more parking, more room to spread out our daily crowd and, in all honesty, accommodate more customers.”
Hunt said they don’t want to limit people’s access to the park. They want to organize it to conform with the governor’s directive to limit group gatherings and practice social distancing.
In preparing for the weekend, people should know that the highway on the south shoreline of the lake has been closed for construction, and parking on the shoulder of the road is not allowed.
“Once the park is closed, there is no place to park to access the lake. You will see highway patrol. You will see city police departments as well as our park rangers there to limit the illegal parking,” he said. “Either you’re already in the park or you’re not. We don’t want people parking illegally.”
In the future, Hunt said they are considering the initiation of a reservation system for primitive camping.
“Our desire is to reopen it on more of a reserved system, so we know who’s coming so people who drive down will know whether they have a spot or not,” he said. “It’s kind of unfair to turn people away at the gate. So by making a reservation system, people can plan their vacations. They know they have a spot. It won’t just be crossing your fingers and driving four hours to hope you have a spot.”
For now, Hunt said they don’t plan on implementing a reservation system until social distancing restrictions are lifted.
“So is that a month? Is that three or four months? It all depends on how things happen,” he said. “We would love to get back to normal, but for now I do not think it’s a couple weeks. I would say more like a couple of months.”
In the meantime, there are plenty of other options, such as staying at a hotel or time-share rental and coming to recreate at the park during the day.
The park will continue to close in the case of large crowds.
“This is clearly more in line with what we’ve been directed to do for the next few weeks at least,” Hunt said.
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