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Using NM's Great Outdoors Respectfully During Pandemic

The Forest Service has closed several recreation sites in New Mexico in an effort to protect residents from the COVID-19 outbreak. (auroraroberts/
The Forest Service has closed several recreation sites in New Mexico in an effort to protect residents from the COVID-19 outbreak. (auroraroberts/
April 3, 2020

SANTA FE, N.M. - If you're headed out to use New Mexico's trails or open space this weekend, outdoor experts say you should make the health of others your number one priority during the current health crisis.

Terry Owen leads outings as the chairman of the Outings and Military Outdoors Program for the Rio Grande Chapter of the New Mexico Sierra Club. Owen says if you can, it's a good idea to find a trail off the beaten path.

At the same time, he says you shouldn't travel so far that it requires a stop - which could possibly mean interacting with others who may have been exposed to the new coronavirus.

"This pandemic that we're seeing is life and death for a lot of people," says Owen. "So, we want to conduct ourselves in a way that is respectful of those that we're sharing the outdoors with."

Owen says a state like New Mexico has plenty of options for hiking or biking on open space trails, but users should follow rules issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That means keeping a minimum distance of six feet between people, and not going out if they're not feeling well or have had contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.

While it's good to stay safe, doctors say exercising may help boost your physical and mental health during this crisis. Owen reminds those headed out that there are many New Mexico communities with limited medical resources that might not be able to take care of someone who sprains an ankle or scrapes a knee.

"Don't go out and try to do your personal best on a trail run, where you could you potentially trip, fall, hurt yourself and end up in the emergency room," says Owen. "Because our health care systems may be overwhelmed, and they don't need one more person to clog up the system."

He says you also should avoid carpooling with people you don't know, and avoid activities that require sharing equipment - like rock climbing.

Owen adds many parks, campgrounds, restrooms and day-use sites have been closed, so check websites before leaving. There also are many apps that can help locate easy, moderate or strenuous hikes in New Mexico.

Disclosure: Sierra Club, Rio Grande Chapter contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Public Lands/Wilderness, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM