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Take a hike!

County Trails remain open despite other closures
Warm spring weather made the Kent Park Lake Trail a popular place to be Tuesday, April 7. Trails remain open despite the closure of campgrounds and playgrounds due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

OXFORD– Hippocrates is said to have declared, “Nature itself is the best physician.”
As the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues, schools remain closed until at least the end of the month and additional businesses have been ordered to close in an attempt to prevent the spread of the disease.
On Monday, April 6, Governor Kim Reynolds signed a proclamation closing all public campgrounds, cabins and yurts, as well as all outdoor playgrounds through Thursday, April 30. State parks, forests and preserves remained open for daytime use, however all restrooms, including pit latrines and port-a-potties were also closed.
In Johnson County, the trails in the county-owned parks, such as Kent Park near Oxford, remained open for use.
Johnson County Conservation Department Naturalist Kristen Morrow offered some tips for enjoying nature in a safe and socially responsible manner. Morrow recommended staying close to home if at all possible.
“If there are places in your town/county that you can find some fresh air and are able to spread out, then go to those places first. The farther you drive, the more logistics are involved, and the potential for needing to stop for gas, having car trouble, etc.”
Regardless of which park you go to, Morrow said if the parking lot is full, that might be a good indicator to go someplace else.
“You want to maintain as much physical distance as you can while out on the trails, and maintain at least 6 feet of space,” she said.
She also suggested visiting the trails at odd hours, earlier in the morning or closer to sunset, as they are likely to be busiest in the afternoon and early evening hours.
When encountering other trail users, a bit of give and take is necessary.
“If you come across others hiking, step off to let others pass,” Morrow noted. “If the trail is narrow, or along a hillside or thick brush, the person that is most physically able to step off to the side should yield to the other.”
It should go without saying if you’re sick you should stay home. Period. “Even though the outdoors is a safer place to be right now, you should still stay home if you have any of the relevant symptoms for COVID-19,” she added. “You will be helping to protect everyone around you by staying home.”
Whether hanging out in your own backyard, your neighborhood park or a county or state park, precautions should also be taken against ticks and the potential for contracting Lyme Disease.
“You can stay more safe from ticks by wearing pants and closed-toe shoes, and performing tick inspections after,” she said.
Morrow noted, if you use an insect repellent, to focus the application from the knees on down.
“You can also look into clothing treatments for tick repellents, like Permethrin, and decide whether that option is a better fit for you than standard insect repelling sprays,” she said.
Morrow added spring is prime time for prescribed burns– using controlled fires, conducted by trained conservation professionals, to keep prairies and woodland habitats healthy and clear of invasive species. She advised avoiding an area if an active burn is taking place, especially if you have asthma or other respiratory issues.
“You may also hike through an area after a burn and see that everything around is black and barren,” she added. “This is normal, and new vegetation will start to regrow within a week or so.”
Nature can be a respite from the stress of daily living, and Morrow said spring is a great time to appreciate the natural cycles of the environment. “You can hear the frogs singing, the birds are starting to build their nests, the spring wildflowers are blooming. As always, be respectful and take care not to harm or disturb the natural environment. Please stay on trails and don’t create new ones– you might be harming fragile ecosystems by doing so, and please follow ‘Leave No Trace’ practices.”
The Conservation Department’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/pg/johnsoncountyconservation) has updates as needed regarding any further closures and has several posts highlighting a number of county parks such as the Cedar River Crossing in Sutliff, Kent Park trails, and the Frytown Conservation Area. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website (www.iowadnr.gov) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/iowadnr/) has the latest information for visiting state parks such as Lake Macbride near Solon.

Pull quotes
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”– Anne Frank
“All my life through, the new sights of nature made me rejoice like a child.”– Marie Curie