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Department of Conservation examines safe reopening options for local facilities

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Earlier this week, Gov. Mike Parson announced the first phase of the “Show Me Strong Recovery” plan outlining how Missouri’s gradual social and economic reopening process beginning May 4.

Based on this news, the Missouri Department of Conservation [MDC] is currently working on its transition plan to safely reopen MDC facilities, including nature centers and staffed shooting ranges, to ensure social-distancing requirements and infection-prevention measures are in place before opening.

The facilities will remain temporarily closed to visitors during this transition phase.

According to MDC, many of these facilities see a high volume of visitors of varying ages during peak seasons, especially spring and summer, so ensuring safety guidelines are in place is critical to a safe reopening.

“With the state opening back up May 4, we have an MDC team working on the transition plan for MDC facilities to reopen while keeping visitors and staff safe,” MDC Director Sara Parker Pauley said. “We do not have a date set for re-opening at this time, but we are working hard to make this happen with safety at the forefront.”

To help protect people amid increasing COVID-19 concerns, MDC temporarily closed its regional offices, Department headquarters in Jefferson City, staffed shooting ranges, nature centers, visitor centers, and educational centers around the state to the public in March.

While MDC offices are closed to general visitation, offices have continued to be staffed. MDC has extended the cancellation of its programs and events through May 31, including hunter education classes, nature center programs and events, shooting range programs and events, and landowner workshops.

Conservation areas, nature center trails, and boat accesses remain open to the public. Hunting, fishing, and trapping seasons continue as scheduled.

Daily trout tags, along with a fishing permit, unless exempt, will be required beginning May 16 for fishing at all of the MDC’s four trout parks: Bennett Spring State Park near Lebanon, Montauk State Park near Licking, Roaring River State Park near Cassville, and Maramec Spring Park near St. James.

MDC hatchery staff will resume stocking the parks on May 15 to provide angling opportunities prior to May 16. State Parks will begin to reopen retail operations in parks leading up to May 16.

With the current public-health emergency caused by COVID-19, MDC reminds people to continue to heed recommendations for handwashing, physical distancing, and all other public-health measures during outdoor activities. Other MDC recommendations include:

  • If you have been sick in the last two weeks, please stay home for your health and the safety of others.
  • Travel in a small group of 10 people or fewer.
  • If a conservation area looks crowded or an area parking lot is full, please do not stop and find another less-crowded location.
  • Keep a proper physical distance of at least six feet while visiting areas and especially on trails.
  • Avoid popular spots where people congregate, such as scenic overlooks, fishing docks, etc.
  • Pack water, soap and/or hand sanitizer.
  • Get more information on best practices for keeping you and your family safe from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/.

Visit the MDC COVID-19 webpage for updates on facility and office closures, cancellations, hunting and fishing seasons, and general information on public-health measures while in the outdoors at mdc.mo.gov/about-us/mdc-covid-19-response.

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