By Dan McDermott
APRIL 8, 2020 — Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive will temporarily close until further notice due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus.
The decision to close the park was made following a recommendation from the Rappahannock Rapidan Health District of the Virginia Department of Health, according to a statement today from the National Park Service.
“Ever since the entrance fee was waived the park has been overwhelmed with visitors either driving on Skyline Drive or entering through the many boundary trailheads,” said NPS Management Specialist Sally Hurlbert.
“The neighboring counties had expressed concern about so many people coming into the park. The trail heads and parking lots are often small and have seen large crowds of people so it really wasn’t possible to maintain the required social distancing,” Hurlbert said.
“The overlooks have also been overwhelmed with visitors,” she said. “We’ve seen more trash and nuisance behavior. That puts our cleaning crews at risk as the virus can linger on paper and other trash for a period.”
Hurlbert also said there was concern for the park’s law enforcement officers and the area’s medical personnel.
“People don’t come here expecting to have a flat tire or a minor traffic accident. They don’t anticipate having an injury on the trail. But when these things happen it puts our staff and local first responders at risk,” she said.
“We tried to strike a balance between opening with limited access and facilities but the balance tipped in favor of closing out of risk to our staff, the park visitors and the neighboring communities.”
Virginia State Highways 211 and 33 will remain accessible to pass-through traffic, according to the NPS statement.