Southeast: State and Federal COVID Restrictions Begin to Ease

Contact: Clay Chester, Southeastern States Coordinator

Sportsmen and women throughout the South are regaining access to public resources on state and federal lands that were closed due to COVID-19.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park (TN/NC) completed its second phase of reopening on May 23, granting access to the trails not opened through the first phase on May 9. Full access to the trails is essential for anglers to access many rivers and streams. On May 14, the Pisgah National Forest (NC) opened two additional access points, the Black Balsam Road and Bent Creek Road along with most associated trails. Additionally, on May 22, the United States Forest Service (USFS) coordinated a reopening of access points and trailheads to the Appalachian Trail, which is used by hunters and anglers, in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests (GA), Cherokee National Forest (TN), George Washington and Jefferson National Forests (VA) and the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests.

While these forests were not closed to hunting and fishing, the closures limited access for sportsmen and women. The reopening of these access points came with a general notice from the National Park Service (NPS) and United States Forest Service (USFS) that bathrooms, shelters and many day-use facilities will remain closed at this time. The NPS and the USFS stressed the importance of maintaining social distancing requirements and refraining from gathering in groups larger than ten people, especially in parking areas and near trailheads. 

Additional updates in the South include:

Cherokee National Forest (TN)

  • Pond Mountain and Jacobs Creek shooting ranges reopened on May 15.
  • Remaining developed recreation sites will reopen on June 1.

Daniel Boone National Forest (KY)

  • Red River Gorge and the Redbird Crest Off-Highway Vehicle Trail opened on May 22.
  • Most day-use sites, including shooting ranges, will tentatively reopen on June 3.

Deer Creek, Grand River and Woodbury Wildlife Management Areas (OH)

  • Reopened Class A shooting ranges on May 21.

Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge (LA)

  • Reopened on May 15 for recreational activity, including fishing.

Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests (SC)

  • Buck Hall Recreation Area (Francis Marion National Forest) boat ramp opened on May 20.

Monongahela National Forest (WV)

  • General forest area for recreational activity, including fishing, remain open for public use.

Ocala National Forest (FL)

  • Most trails, trailheads and boat ramps opened on May 16.

CSF commends these efforts to increase access on state and federal lands for outdoor enthusiasts. In response to the COVID-related closures, CSF and partners are leading a media campaign to promote #ResponsibleRecreation.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) continues to work with federal and state policy makers to ensure opportunities for outdoor recreation remain available during these challenging times. CSF encourages all sportsmen and women to practice #ResponsibleRecreation while enjoying their outdoor pursuits. 

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