I live in a small desert town with limited resources. Yet, we depend upon tourism for the bulk of our economy. Myself included. A conundrum, indeed.
A company I guide with recently posted the following notice. And I applaud them.
I see the license plates starting to turn green here in Utah, and many people think our little desert town is a great place to be during a time when “social distancing” is not just for misanthropes. A major newspaper advocates coming here for recreation.
Coming here is foolhardy and irresponsible.
I’ll be blunt: PLEASE DON’T COME TO MOAB RIGHT NOW!
Just don’t do it.
- Primarily, it is irresponsible to travel here at this time. The rest is just details.
- If you fly here in crowded airports, you could carry or come down with Covid-19. Even driving is not safe. People in the Front Range (Denver area) are now traveling through areas with Covid 19.
- Travel bans could be in effect soon. If you come to recreate in our little desert town, and can’t get back home, we don’t have the resources to accommodate hundreds or even thousands of stuck people. Moab is thirty-miles from the interstate and two-hours from any decent-sized city. In other words, we are at the end of a long and limited supply chain. EDIT: As I published the article, Canada closed its borders to non-Canadians or Americans.
- If travel bans do go into effect, you’ll have trouble getting home to where you have more resources, or seeing your loved ones who need you in a time of need.
- Even if you are currently asymptomatic, you could come down with it here. You’ll potentially find yourself stranded in a town where lodging, food, and medical supplies are limited. And you’ll put others at risk.
- Speaking of limited medical supplies, our community hospital has dedicated, hard-working, and very qualified professionals. However, the staff and resources are small. Any of the limited ventilators, for example, are for transportation of patients to larger hospitals. Moab does not have the capacity long term care overall. And f you injure yourself, EMS, SAR, and other medical resources are used in an area with limited resources during a time of emergency. In addition to putting these people at risk.
- Places are already closing down. The governor of Colorado closed the ski resorts as of Sunday; REIs are closing, etc. etc. What other closures will occur? I don’t know, but more seem likely. Fauci is pushing for a nationwide lockdown as well. By the time you make it here, key places such as national parks, visitor centers, or lodging might close.
As my employer said, it pains me to say all this, but please stay away. Many of us, and similar small towns that are tourist-based, would instead take a financial hit in the short term rather than face long term economic and (more importantly) physical health concerns.
Let things calm down a bit.
Find some local places to recreate, and use some common sense. Previous generations went through far more terrible events than we are experiencing now. This, too, shall pass. But we can let it pass with less harm in the long term if we all think of the greater community.
We’ll be here in the fall.
The cottonwoods blaze yellow, we have warm days and cool nights, and it’s magical.
UPDATE: Even smaller communities in Utah agree, too.
In order to slow the spread of COVID-19 and therefore not overwhelm local resources and protect local vulnerable populations, we encourage potential visitors to stay closer to home and enjoy local parks this spring
UPDATE 3/17/2020: The Southeast Dept. of Health closed lodging, including campgrounds, and dispersed camping, to all but non-locals that are not essential (construction, students, local employees, etc).
UPDATE 3/27/2020 And now Arches and Canyonlands National Parks are closed.
Some additional reading:
- The American Hiking Society put out some concise and direct information on how to hike responsibly during the current crisis.
- Sectionhiker.com has similar thoughts, but within a long trail context.
- The Washington Post also writes a comprehensive view overview of the hiking trails.
- The CDTC’s guidelines also apply other long trails.
- And another view about not traveling for outdoor recreation currently.
- And the ATC bluntly told people to get off the trail as of 3/17.