The allure of nature has won over many Georgians who have been itching to stretch their quarantine-confined legs.
Despite the fear of COVID-19 exposure, crowds have flocked to trail systems in North Georgia, including those in Chicopee Woods Conservation Area in Hall County and Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawson County.
Lee Irminger, natural resource manager at Elachee Nature Science Center, said during the past two weeks, the nonprofit’s Chicopee Woods hiking and biking trails have seen a 104% visitation increase compared to the same time last year.
“During those two weeks we had at least 600 cars come through,” he said. “With three on average in a car, that’s at least 1,800 people. It’s definitely a sight to behold.”
Irminger has witnessed visitors of all ages. Because of the large size of the trails, he said people have been able to keep their distance from others.
“People are doing a good job social distancing, and stepping to the side of the trail to let people pass,” Irminger said. “I think they just want to get out of their houses and go somewhere, and find sanctuary in nature.”
Amicalola Falls State Park has also seen its fair share of visitors during the pandemic, who have taken advantage of its hiking trails, fishing spots and fresh air.
According to park officials, people have recently been turned away because the park doesn’t have enough parking spaces to accommodate the season’s large influx.
Amicalola Falls State Park General Manager Charles Willis said public interest in the park is common during summer weekends, and safety procedures will still be enforced to protect people from COVID-19.
“We aren’t turning people away because of the virus,” Willis said. “But it has been convenient that it allows us to obey the social distancing instructions.”
So far, the Amicalola Falls State Park has kept its visitor’s center closed and has limited its daily number of patrol staff. Willis said the park will not reopen in its entirety until Thursday, May 21.
“We expect business to remain as usual for the entire summer,” he said. “People love being outside and we love having them at the park.”
Irminger encourages those who plan to hike or bike during the pandemic to keep a 6-foot gap from others.
“If you’d like to wear a mask, that’s also certainly helpful,” he said. “The biggest key is keeping a distance from people.”
Jacob Smith of Dawson County News contributed to this article