SOUTHERN INDIANA — Social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t get outside to enjoy the warm weather. Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there are plenty of safe ways to participate in outdoor activities in Southern Indiana.
If you don’t want to be cooped up in your house, you can spend time in nature on a nice day, whether it’s fishing at a lake or hiking on one of the many local trails while practicing social distancing.
EXPLORING THE OUTDOORS
Although Indiana campgrounds were shut down following the stay-at-home order, Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ campgrounds reopened Memorial Day weekend, including those at Deam Lake and Charlestown State Park in Clark County.
Fishing, hiking, bicycling and boating are among the outdoor activities permitted at DNR properties during the pandemic, but certain services and facilities are temporarily closed. Visitors are asked to keep at least 6 feet from others and abide by posted restrictions.
The DNR is posting signage to remind visitors of safe procedures using the acronym OWL, which stands for “own it, wash it, limit touch and social distance.” The guidelines advise people to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer frequently and to avoid touching surfaces in public spaces.
There are many trails to explore throughout Southern Indiana. The Ohio River Greenway connects Jeffersonville, Clarksville and New Albany through a 7.5-mile pathway ideal for cycling, walking or jogging, and along the way, you can stop at points along the three communities’ waterfronts.
Pedestrians and cyclists can also traverse the Ohio River from downtown Jeffersonville to Louisville on the Big Four Bridge. At the Falls of the Ohio State Park, you can explore the Clarksville park’s Devonian fossil beds along the Ohio River, and you can observe the variety of birds and flowering plants along the Woodland Loop Trail.
The Falls of the Ohio’s Interpretive Center recently reopened at limited capacity, but public park programs will not resume until June, according to the park’s website.
At Deam Lake, boating and fishing on the 194-acre lake aren’t the only activities you can enjoy. The recreation area is home to a number of trails, including the trailhead to the Knobstone Trail, which is the longest hiking trail in Indiana. Deam Lake also includes four other trails ranging from easy to rugged.
For those interested in local history, a steep trail will lead you to Rose Island, an abandoned amusement park at Charlestown State Park. As you walk through the wooded trail, you can spot ruins of structures such as the park’s swimming pool.
Although guided tours are temporarily suspended, signs throughout tell the story of the amusement park’s vibrant history. The Rose Island trail is one of six trails at Charlestown State Park.
Public swimming pools and waterparks are among the outdoor recreation facilities that will be unavailable this summer due to the pandemic. The River Run Family Waterpark in New Albany, Jeffersonville Aquatic Center, Clarksville Cove and Sellersburg Pool will not be open for the 2020 season.
Derek Spanton, assistant property manager at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, said although state park shelter houses are currently closed, he has seen many families picnicking out on the grass. He encourages people to explore the trails at local parks, and if there are too many people walking on one path, they might consider walking a different trail or coming back at a different time.
Many people have been appreciating Southern Indiana’s parks and trails amid the pandemic, he said.
“I just think that being outside and active is part of a healthy lifestyle, so hopefully people who maybe didn’t get outside much before this have a new appreciation for parks,” he said. “Since we’ve had these restrictions, we’ve been a place where people can go to during a time when so many places are completely shut down.”