6 steps to recreate outdoors responsibly

National Outdoor Groups Release Six “Recreate Responsibly” Tips for Enjoying the Outdoors Safely During COVID-19

As summer begins, national groups advocate ways to protect health and keep public lands and waters open and safe

May 21, 2020

SEATTLE and DENVER – In advance of Memorial Day weekend – the unofficial start of the summer season – a newly formed coalition of outdoor groups created the Recreate Responsibly initiative to share ways for Americans to stay healthy while enjoying public lands, parks, trails, waters, and other outdoor areas.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, more Americans are spending time outside because of the mental and physical benefits that fresh air and nature provide. As state officials reopen outdoor spaces, people want guidance on how to reduce the risk to themselves and others while enjoying time outside.

Specifically, the Recreate Responsibly initiative is designed to limit new COVID-19 outbreaks and ensure public lands and waters can remain open to the public by providing clear, consistent guidance for individuals, families and communities. The following tips are based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, state and local public health guidelines and recreation experts:

  1. Know Before You Go: Check the status of the place you want to visit. If it is closed, don’t go. If it’s crowded, have a plan B.
  2. Plan Ahead: Prepare for facilities to be closed, pack lunch and bring essentials like hand sanitizer and a face covering.
  3. Stay Close to Home: This is not the time to travel long distances to recreate. Most places are only open for day use.
  4. Practice Physical Distancing: Adventure only with your immediate household. Be prepared to cover your nose and mouth and give others space. If you are sick, stay home.
  5. Play It Safe: Slow down and choose lower-risk activities to reduce your risk of injury. Search and rescue operations and health care resources are both strained.
  6. Leave No Trace: Respect public lands and communities and take all your garbage with you.

"Recreation.gov is often the first stop for visitors as they plan their trips and make reservations on federal land and water locations throughout the country," said Rick DeLappe, Recreation.gov program manager. "During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have supported our participating agencies as they adjust to this quickly evolving situation. As locations begin to reopen and welcome visitors, we feel the Recreate Responsibly coalition is sending the right message at the right time to encourage everyone to safely enjoy our National treasures."

"People all across the nation are eager to get back outdoors to experience nature, and in this uncertain time, it is the reprieve and little bit of normalcy that many of us need," said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. "When each person acts in a responsible way, it helps ensure we are able to promote safety and are able to continue welcoming people to our public lands. In Washington state, our recreation community has come together in an extraordinary way to promote responsible recreation. I truly believe this work can serve as a model for the rest of the country and help keep all our communities safe while also allowing us all to enjoy the outdoors."

"We need nature and the benefits it provides now more than ever. This is especially more important for the many communities that lack the same types and levels of access to the outdoors," said Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation. "One of the first steps to making the outdoors more inclusive is by translating the information into other languages like Spanish. We can even lessen COVID-19’s effects and the effects of future disasters with holistic conservation policies and safe outdoor access for all."

"Spending time outdoors has been important for many Americans during this public health crisis," said Eric Artz, president and CEO of REI Co-op. "As our public lands and waters reopen, we’ll all benefit from clear, easy-to-follow guidance on how to recreate responsibly – whether you’re a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or a family heading to your local park. At REI, we’re grateful that the outdoor community is coming together so quickly to simplify and amplify tips for ensuring we all recreate with health and safety in mind. This is the type of collaboration that will help keep our public spaces open."

"No matter how you like to recreate, we are all united by the love we share for our public lands and waters," said Adam Cramer, executive director of Outdoor Alliance. "We have a shared responsibility to not only care for these places but to care for our fellow citizens, and these guidelines help show the way."

"The outdoor industry understands why Americans are clamoring for the many health benefits of getting outside, and we are hard at work to ensure they can access the outdoors safely," said Lise Aangeenbrug, Outdoor Industry Association executive director. "We strongly believe that ‘together we are a force’ should be the motto for protecting the outdoors, and it is great to see so many national groups come together to shape the conversation about responsible recreation during this public health crisis."

"Healthy outdoor recreation activities like boating provide one of the safest atmospheres for Americans and their families to spend time relaxing and playing together," said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. "Whether you’re boating, swimming or fishing on a lake, bay or ocean, it is up to everyone to recreate responsibly so we can enjoy our beloved pastimes this Memorial Day and beyond."

About the Recreate Responsibility Coalition

The Recreate Responsibly Coalition is a newly formed partnership of nonprofits, outdoor businesses and land managers developing and sharing best practices to protect each other and our natural landscapes. We are a diverse community brought together by our love of the outdoors and a desire to help everyone experience the benefits of nature safely during this public health crisis.

Building off the work of the Washington state coalition, which formed to provide guidance to the public as Washington’s public lands were slowly reopening, the national coalition is a working group that looks to unify and amplify common-sense guidance about getting outside during COVID-19.

The national group includes partner organizations representing a diverse community of outdoor groups and advocates committed to helping all Americans navigate new norms and experience the benefits of nature during the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more, visit recreateresponsibly.org.

  • American Hiking Society
  • Children & Nature Network
  • City Parks Alliance
  • Hispanic Access Foundation
  • LBC Action
  • Leave No Trace
  • National Forest Foundation
  • National Park Foundation
  • Outdoor Afro
  • Outdoor Alliance
  • Outdoor Industry Association
  • Outdoor Recreation Roundtable
  • PeopleforBikes
  • REI
  • The Conservation Alliance
  • The North Face
  • The Trust for Public Lands
  • Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
  • Washington Trails Association

About the REI Co-op

REI is a specialty outdoor retailer, headquartered near Seattle. The nation’s largest consumer co-op, REI is a growing community of 23 million members who expect and love the best quality gear, inspiring expert classes and trips, and outstanding customer service. REI has 188 locations in 42 states and the District of Columbia. If you can’t visit a store, you can shop at REI.comREI Outlet or the REI shopping app. REI isn’t just about gear. Adventurers can take the trip of a lifetime with REI’s active adventure travel company that runs more than 100 itineraries across the country. In many communities where REI has a presence, professionally trained instructors share their expertise by hosting beginner-to advanced-level classes and workshops about a wide range of activities. To build on the infrastructure that makes life outside possible, REI invests millions annually in hundreds of local and national nonprofits that create access to—and steward—the outdoor places that inspire us all.