Residents of Newton County are petitioning Governor Hutchinson to stop encouraging people to hike, go fishing or other outdoor activities to alleviate the tedium of social distancing during the spread of COVID-19 in Arkansas.The Arkansas Times reports a petition with nearly 1,800 signatures was begun over the weekend. The petition notes there were 162 cars at one point over the weekend at the 2.2-mile Lost Valley trailhead on the Buffalo National River, some with six occupants. There is only one bathroom at the trailhead. There were another 75 at the Twin Falls trailhead, a trail that is only a half-mile long.
As of noon Monday, the National Park Service has closed its campgrounds to overnight use. Day use is limited to 6 a.m.-8 p.m.
County Judge Warren Campbell has been contacted by residents to see what he could do to keep people from overrunning Newton County. He said Monday morning there was nothing he could do. He told the Times the crowds at the Buffalo were larger than are normal during spring break, which was last week, and he wished the governor would quit promoting it.
Cassie Brandstetter, the public information officer for the Buffalo National River National Park, says the park is following federal guidelines on park use and will monitor the situation.
The Petition Language is below:
– Due to the restrictions regarding social distancing in an attempt to stop the spread of Covid 19, visitors are taking to the Buffalo River and surrounding trails at the suggestion of state leaders to “get out and enjoy the outdoors.” Which would be fine in small numbers, but today alone, trails were PACKED with mainly tourists from other states and cities, putting our community and its residents at risk.
– We are calling upon Governor Asa Hutchinson to STOP telling people to visit, and to stop crowding the river and parks in a feeble attempt at social distancing. We need to be shut down to all visitors if we want to stop the spread of this virus.
– Today, 162 cars at the Lost Valley trailhead today. 2:20 p.m. Some with 6 occupants. 500+ people on the 2.2 mile RT trail. Using one small bathroom.
– 75-plus cars at twin falls trailhead, that is only a 0.5 mile trail.