Early closures may be the ‘new normal’ for Washington County’s water-based state parks

Sand Hollow Reservoir, Hurricane, Utah, June 28, 2016 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — In order to avoid the overcrowding seen last weekend and to promote social distancing as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Sand Hollow and Quail Creek state parks closed Friday afternoon as soon as they reached visitor capacity.

Evening at Gunlock reservoir. The reservoir is at full capacity for the first time in many years and is a sign of the “great water year” water officials are lauding thanks to high levels of above-average snowpack in the region and across the state, Washington County, Utah, March 23, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Gunlock State Park plans to do the same.

“This is probably going to be the new normal, so people need to plan ahead,” said Candace Smith, Quail Creek State Park manager, adding that all three of Washington County’s reservoir-based state parks were “on the same page” about capacity-prompted closures.

The closures will be based on when the number of boating and/or beach parking stalls within the park are filled, as well as the general size of the crowds within the park.

Last weekend, Sand Hollow State Park was overwhelmed with visitors to the point the park had to close its gates. Unable to drive in at that time, many people parked their vehicles along Sand Hollow Road and walked in instead, further crowding the park. In order to halt a repeat performance, park officials have taken preemptive measures.

Sand Hollow closed around 1:30 p.m., followed by Quail Creek shortly after 2 p.m.

Jonathan Hunt, manager of Sand Hollow State Park, said once the parks are closed, they are closed and will not be letting people back in. However, boating and camping reservations will still be honored.

“We’ve tried to let people know throughout the week this could happen,” Hunt said.

Once capacity was reached at Sand Hollow and neighboring Quail Creek, the parks shut the gates.

“It’s an average summer day here, but it’s not crowded,” Hunt said.

The potential for lunchtime closures will be a “new normal” for the foreseeable future, especially during the weekends, Hunt said.

Both Smith and Hunt said people can follow the state parks’ Facebook pages for information about the closures. They also advise people to come early if they want to get into the parks before they are forced to shut their gates for the day.

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

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