Washington anglers and duffers can circle May 5 on their calendar. It’s the day that fishing and golfing can reopen, with some restrictions.
Gov. Jay Inslee and officials that over see state lands and recreation activities announced Monday the partial lifting of limitations put in place last month to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Recreational fishing can resume on May 5, although Inslee urged that people keep the 6-foot social distancing recommended for being out of the home, and only share a boat with a family member in the same household. They are also urged to bring their own food and supplies, not congregate in parking lots or trail heads and pick a spot that they can reach and return from in the same day.
Golf, too, can resume on May 5, although players should maintain social distancing while playing and courses should arrange for twosomes, rather than foursomes unless all four people are from the same household. Spokane city and county parks officials will be meeting Tuesday to finalize the same guidelines for their courses and expect to be open on the following Tuesday.
Most state parks and public lands also will open for hiking and day use — again with social distancing practices — on or shortly after that date as soon as weather allows and staff has a chance to do any needed maintenance. Visitors should check state websites for which are open, bring their own water, hand sanitizer and masks, Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz said.
Reconnecting with nature “will bring a sense of normalcy back into our lives,” said Don Hoch, Washington Parks and Recreation director.
Overnight camping, whether at campsites, group areas or in the back country is still not allowed.
Shutting down most outdoor recreation on March 25 as part of his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order was a very difficult decision, Inslee said. Being able to relax those restrictions was based on improving health data that shows Washington is making headway in fighting COVID-19.
“If this virus were to spring back, we might have to roll back some of these restrictions again,” he added.
It’s the second loosening of restrictions announced in four days. Last Friday, Inslee relaxed rules to allow some commercial and residential construction to resume. Other restrictions could be relaxed in the coming days, including the prospect of elective surgery resuming at some hospitals that have adequate supplies of personal protective equipment.
But the process for all business to resume will be a slow one and depends on data not dates, he said.
“We’re going to have to maintain plenty of restrictions after May 4,” Inslee said, which is the current date when the current stay home order is set to expire.
Bob Rees, executive director for the Northwest Guides and Anglers Association, said the reopening will be critically important for the industry. The restrictions in Washington closed the spring chinook season on the Columbia River, he said.
“We need to get back to work,” Rees said. “This is when we make our money to store away for the winter.”
Washington was the only state in the nation that closed both hunting and fishing, he said. It was the first state to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, and was “somewhat more justified” in the closure, he added, but “we thought it could have been structured differently.”
Also Monday, Inslee said Washington will be getting $300 million in federal CARES Act funding from the federal government to be distributed to cities and counties. The allocation of that money will be determined in the coming days. But the demand for help from local governments, which are “on the front lines” of fighting the virus, is likely to outstrip that amount and Congresss will need to come up with more, he said.
He called the suggestion by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that states might have to declare bankrupts “the most wrong-headed, ludicrous idea I’ve heard in a long time.”