S.C. state parks fill to capacity during first weekend to reopen

Jones Gap State Park in South Carolina
Jones Gap State Park in South Carolina(WRDW)
Published: May. 4, 2020 at 8:04 AM EDT
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Monday, May 4, 2020

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - It was a busy first weekend back open for the South Carolina state parks.

Before noon Sunday, Myrtle Beach State Park had already reached the maximum capacity allowed under the new regulations, mirroring a similar situation at state parks across South Carolina. They were allowed to reopen Friday, with restrictions, after being closed for the month of April due to COVID-19.

Paul McCormack, director of South Carolina State Parks, said the new lowered capacity is just one of the many ways state parks are attempting to keep visitors and rangers safe during the pandemic.

According to McCormack, the Myrtle Beach State Park is now operating at a capacity of 500 cars instead of the typical 900. He said this is key to making sure park visitors can safely enjoy the park.

Over the weekend, at least 13 other parks reached peak capacity, as well:

• Croft

• Keowee-Toxaway

• Jones Gap

• Table Rock

• Paris Mountain

• Devils Fork

• Hamilton Branch

• Sadlers Creek

• Kings Mountain (day use area)

• Landsford Canal

• Musgrove Mill

• Little Pee Dee

McCormack said state officials are working on other ways to make visitors aware the parks are operating differently during the pandemic.

“You’ll see our gate attendants are all in masks and gloves. We provided masks and gloves for a lot of our staff now and are asking them to wear them whenever they’re interacting with visitors. We think that masks sends a message to our visitors that things are different, that we want everyone to maintain a distance from each other," McCormack said.

He added they did anticipate the rush they saw this weekend. However, he said opening parks back up was still the right move.

“As much is they’re a little bit nervous about this virus still being out there, a park is not a park without people in it,” McCormack said.

McCormack also added that visitors should plan on bringing their own water bottles to parks as water fountains will be shut down. Playgrounds will be closed until June 1 and there will not be any equipment rentals.

He also stressed that, if possible, pay online to avoid close contact with rangers.

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