State forests open, but take COVID-19 precautions 

  • Hemingway Road in Wendell State Forest  STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/20/2020 3:16:47 PM
Modified: 5/20/2020 3:16:38 PM

Now that spring appears to be here to stay, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) says its forests are open for hiking, but warns that people still need to be diligent about keeping safe during the pandemic.

DCR Press Secretary Olivia Dorrance said, for instance, Erving State Forest, including Laurel Lake, and others are open to visitors but the hope is that they will take precautions. In Erving, visitors can access the park at the Town of Warwick entrance off Moss Road because access in Erving at Swamp Road off North Street is closed due to a bridge closure.

Dorrance said the bridge was closed in late April due to damage from a motor vehicle accident. She said the state agency is currently evaluating damages and necessary repairs to get it open.

She said the DCR has not closed any nature trails throughout its state parks system, including those in Franklin County and beyond, like Wendell, Buckland, Colrain, Conway, Heath, Hawley, Athol, Leyden, Monroe, Montague, Warwick, New Salem, Shelburne, Petersham and more, because of COVID-19, but has implemented one-way loops at select locations to reduce close contact of trail users.

Dorrance said while parks remain open and are popular destinations, the DCR asks the public to refrain from visiting if crowds are forming within the parks or on the trails, particularly during high-visitation times like weekends.

She said if a park is crowded, people should consider leaving the area and visit another location, returning later or on a different day. She said typically parks are less busy during the week or early in the morning.

Dorrance said people should obviously stay home if they are ill or 70 years old or older, because those are the more vulnerable populations.

She said people should practice health personal hygiene, including hand-washing for at least 20 seconds, participating in only non-contact recreational activities, wearing facial masks in public and practicing social distancing of at least 6 feet.

She said people should stay within their small groups and avoid gatherings of 10 or more people and should follow any posted rules, including “carry-in, carry-out” policies regarding trash and other waste.

Dorrance said the DCR would like to see users visit parks and trails that are within walking distance or a short drive from home to “minimize crowding of parks and other natural resources.”

She said in an effort to aid park users, the department continues to provide park alternatives throughout the state parks system using its Twitter and Instagram social media channels (@MassDCR).

For additional information, visit:

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or

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