Rock Bridge State Park still crowded, hikers trying to stay apart

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COLUMBIA – As the COVID-19 pandemic forces more people to stay indoors, the beautiful weather is still drawing plenty of people outdoors.

The parking lot for the Devil’s Icebox Trail at Rock Bridge State Park was full Tuesday afternoon. 

“We came up from Jeff City today,” park visitor Scott Shaw said. 

With his daughter alongside, he said social distancing was top of mind on the trails. 

“When you’re passing by someone, you both just veer slightly to the side and you don’t really come all that close,” he said.  

Most visitors at the park Wednesday were not alone, usually in at least groups of two people.  

Local teacher Jayme Tips is off work, and her 8-year-old son is off school. They spent an hour and half on the trails Wednesday. 

“Everybody’s being very polite and very conscious and very aware,” Tips said. 

There were some larger groups as well. 

“We’re trying to find ways to stay healthy but still maintain a responsible distance from other people,” park visitor Brooke Barnette said. “We’re staying six feet away from people we don’t know.”  

Barnette was out with group of five other friends and a child.  

“We’ve been around each other a lot, so we know we really haven’t been in contact with other people,” Barnette’s friend Samantha Logue said. 

On Tuesday, the Columbia Missourian reported five Missouri state parks will temporarily close or partially close due to the virus. Governor Parson said people need to act responsibly and keep their distance in order to keep parks open.  

“The last thing we want to do is be shutting down outdoor facilities, state parks and so forth," Parson said. "But again, it comes back to the personal responsibility of how we conduct ourselves and how we act."

Visitors like Shaw want to make sure parks like Rock Bridge can stay open. 

“It’d be terrible if they closed down Rock Bridge State Park,” Shaw said. “I know Governor Parson is taking the proper precautions in other parts of the state. But right here in the middle of the state, we need this. We need to get outdoors. We have to enjoy what we have, and we can stay far enough apart and be safe still.”

He said it’s easy to follow the simple advice to stay apart.

“Come on, let’s all be team here and just stay six feet apart on the trails and be safe and enjoy it,” he said. “You can’t stay inside all day.”

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