“Social distancing” is actually quite easy while we’re outdoors, but we should not let our guards down. COVID-19 is still here, still active and waiting to infect unsuspecting victims.
That said, let’s look at just a few of the possibilities for outdoor activities we can safely participate in this summer and enjoy our environment during the pandemic:
Golf: Golfing is among one of the first public sporting activities to open during our challenging 2020 summer season. Some regional golf courses are also taking the environment and climate seriously. Read about how golfing is becoming more sustainable in the northeast on p.21, Sustainability in Golf.
Biking and e-biking: There are more people biking during the pandemic for exercise to do errands and for a safe means of transportation to work. Sales for e-bikes are soaring, because they make it easy to get around on our hilly terrain. Read more about e-bikes in our region on p.4. and see the new start-up business, Hanover Adventure Tours ad on p.4 that rents e-bikes with touring maps and more.
Water sports: Kayaking, stand-up boarding, one-person or limited passenger sail boating, sculling, canoeing, and row boating can all be done with social distancing.
Tennis: Many outdoor tennis courts are now open to the public, but clubhouses, changing-rooms, and restrooms may possibly be closed. It is recommended that you play singles against one person from another household. For doubles, it is safest if everyone is from the same household.
Walk in the woods: Hiking is encouraged for healthy activity but caution needs to be considered to prevent an upsurge of the Covid-19 virus in our region.
North Conway, NH is one example of a destination for backcountry hiking because of the lure of the White Mountain National Forest. The forest includes Mount Washington and many hiking trails within this region. Vermont’s Green Mountains and the Adirondacks in New York are similar examples in our region that have small communities that are relatively free of Covid-19 but will have large numbers of visitors from places with far higher rates of infection.
In a typical summer season, the economies of these areas are bolstered with visitors from nearby states. They normally rely on the economic benefits from the visitors.
This year is different. While the economy is suffering, summer tourism is definitely a controversial topic. Our regions in VT, NH and northern NY have had far fewer cases of the virus than many parts of the country. Even a few asymptomatic carriers could easily spread the virus and cause a huge increase of this viral activity in our rural communities.
Dr. Antonia Altomare, an infectious disease and international health specialist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH said, “We’ve been a little worried about an influx of people from out of state because in this particular instance, the prevalence [of COVID-19 infections] has been much greater outside of our borders.”
Rules of engagement
Is it possible for people from outside our region, or even for those of us who live here, to engage in recreation and do it safely while minimizing exposure to our rural communities? We have new rules to think about with the Covid-19 virus and the need to stay safe.
Safety requires careful thought and preparation. Consider day trips, social distancing on trails, and possibly avoiding restaurants. Then think about how to handle gas station fill-ups in rural towns. What if you need a rest room or automotive repair if you break down? And what if you twist an ankle or suffer heat exhaustion or get bitten by a tick or have an allergic reaction to a bug bite or bee sting while hiking? All of these things mean more exposure to many others beyond our normal circle of safety during the pandemic.
Non-essential visitors can stress a rural region’s limited healthcare infrastructure and resources, whether it be the grocery store, the gas station, or the EMS system, to name a few.
This summer, if you do come to visit or are recreating locally, make sure to have and wear a face mask and use sanitizer often and wash your hands! Try to limit your extra stops to those most needed. Pack your lunch and dinner, perhaps. Let’s enjoy our summer of 2020 and make it a safe and a positively memorable experience for all of us long after Covid-19!
N.R. Mallery is the publisher of Green Energy Times.