By: 1812Blockhouse Staff; Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Quite honestly, we weren’t entirely sure a month or so ago that we would have the opportunity to post in our Summer Road Trip series in 2020. As Ohio re-opens in a measured and safe way, additional venues and attractions are coming online. Fair and festivals may be out for the time being, but interesting places to visit are very much on tap.
So this year we’re continuing our weekly look at unique events and attractions that are within an easy driving distance of the Mansfield area. We call these “Summer Road Trips.” Of course, we regularly feature the many extraordinary places to visit right here in Richland County and encourage our readers to get out and experience what is on offer in our own backyard.
As you may know, Ohio’s State Parks have generally been open for hiking and visiting, but one of the best-known has been shut down. That is about to change.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) met with members of the Hocking Hills Tourism Association on June 1 to outline a plan to reopen most of the currently closed areas of Hocking Hills State Park, including the campground, cabins, and Old Man’s Cave, in time for the Independence Day holiday weekend. Currently, Rock House, Cantwell Cliffs and several areas of the Hocking Hills State Forest are scheduled to open June 15.
“The health and safety of the public is our number one concern, and we are moving carefully and deliberately before reopening,” said ODNR Director Mary Mertz. “With safety precautions in place, we look forward to welcoming visitors back to continue exploring these popular areas of Hocking Hills State Park.”
The ODNR Division of Parks and Watercraft will modify most of the Hocking Hills State Park trails system to better accommodate social distancing. ODNR will re-route trails and direct hikers to one-way travel, where the landscape permits trail modification. One-way trails have the added benefit of protecting the delicate ecological systems in the area.
ODNR’s Hocking Hills Reopening Plan includes new trail patterns, signage, and maps. Limiting parking to existing spaces will be enforced. If a parking lot is full, visitors will need to move on to a different area or come back at a different time. Parking outside of marked, existing parking spaces will not be allowed.
Mechanical and equipment access is not available in most parts of the park, and most of the trail modification work will need to be done by hand, which takes more time but protects the landscape.
State Park cabin and campground reservations for arrivals through July 1 will automatically be canceled, and a full refund issued to the original form of payment, if possible. If we are unable to refund to the original form of payment, then an Ohio State Parks e-gift card will be issued to use on a future reservation.
The campground and cabin areas will be open to customers with existing campground and cabin reservations with arrivals of July 2 or later. ODNR is accepting new reservations for the campground and cabin areas with an arrival date of July 15 or later.
For more information on Ohio’s state park system, please visit www.ohiostateparks.gov. For more information on COVID-19 and ODH’s recommendations on prevention and preparation, please visit coronavirus.ohio.gov.
Photo: Creative Commons License