As closures as part of the efforts to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic continue, Utahns are taking to the outdoors in full force.
“You drive through the canyon, you go by the river trail, it’s packed. Drive by wind caves, it’s packed.cPeople are getting out, they’re recreating,” said Patrick Kelly, the Director of Education at the Stokes Nature Center in Cache Valley. “And they’re really taking special, and maybe heightened, pride in where we live and the natural resources and the opportunities we have."
Since February, Utahns’ park usage has increased by up to 111%, according to the Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism. In Cache Valley, it’s up by 182%.
It’s not certain whether that’s because of pandemic-related desperation for the outdoors, or just the warm weather getting people outside.
Katherine Veeder is the Director of Education at the Swaner Preserve and Eco Center in Park City. She said that when Summit County first had strict stay-at-home protocols, the Eco Center got a ton of calls asking if families could volunteer on the preserve
“Suddenly parents were taking on the role of, not only are they parents and guardians, but they’re also the school teacher and they’re making lunch and they’re doing all these different things,” Veeder said. “So I think getting outside was really helpful for them to feel engaged with the community even if they can’t see their classmate or their friends or teachers or anything like that.”
And getting outdoors has more benefits than just getting out of your stuffy house.
“There’s substantial research that shows that adults and kids getting outside has all of these benefits physically and mentally,” Veeder stated. “So you see things from eyesight improvement and focus they can maintain, all the way to decreased blood pressure, lower levels of stress and cortisol.”
It also helps that, in this difficult economy, nature is free.