The National Park Service (NPS) is now requiring face masks to be worn in all of its buildings and facilities for employees, visitors and contractors.
The mask mandate is in response to the executive order recently issued by President Biden that requires masks to be worn in all federal buildings and on federal lands.
One question that came up from our readers with respect to the executive order was if masks had to be worn outside when on federal land, such as a national park, since the executive order did mention “federal lands.” According to the NPS directive, the answer to that is yes, at least sometimes. The requirement will extend to outdoor activities where the 6 foot physical distance requirement cannot be maintained.
“Face masks are now required in all NPS buildings and facilities. Masks are also required on NPS-managed lands when physical distancing cannot be maintained, including narrow or busy trails, overlooks and historic homes,” according to the announcement from NPS.
In other words, go out and enjoy your hike, but you should plan to carry a mask with you should you end up in a situation where the mask requirement would likely apply.
The NPS also added that it has instituted other restrictions that you may encounter in some places: “Additional public health measures are in place across the National Park System, from capacity limits to one-way trails or temporary closures in response to local conditions.”
“Wearing a mask around others, physical distancing, and washing your hands are the simplest and most effective public health measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” said NPS Office of Public Health Director Captain Sara Newman. “Getting outside and enjoying our public lands is essential to improving mental and physical health, but we all need to work together to recreate responsibly.”
So what does it mean to “recreate responsibly?” NPS offers more details on its website, but it includes suggestions such as checking the status of the park you want to visit before going, keeping distance from other people, possibly postponing more challenging hikes, and following local orders for where you’re traveling.
Despite the new requirements, the NPS notes that the CDC says that exercise is “is one of the best ways to keep the mind and body healthy” and still encourages visitors to come out to the parks but to be aware of the new guidelines “to ensure an enjoyable and safe experience.”