Physical Activity Prohibition

I am all for physical distancing, and was socially distant long before it was cool.

What I’m struggling to understand is the closing of all sorts of outdoor venues that are good for both physical and mental health just when we all need it more than ever.

Is it just that my paradigm of doing most of these things alone is unique, and most people can’t go for a walk alone or spaced at least as far apart as you’re expected to be in a grocery store now?

Am I missing something fundamental? Is there really anything wrong with me going for a walk down a trail in the woods? If something were to happen and no one knows where I am, I’m just as dead as before. The only argument I can make for it is the burden on emergency services if I need rescued, but where I’m going isn’t even close to being “remote”. I can get into trouble anywhere and need help. There are plenty of examples on the news of people doing stupid things at home and needing emergency assistance of one sort or another.

I’m getting to the point where more and more places I’ve visited have big “CLOSED” signs and I fear getting a fine. We aren’t on “lock down” here (yet), so there’s nothing stopping me from walking around the city where I encounter occasional people; some of whom just keep walking down the middle of the sidewalk causing me to take a wide detour around them.

It just doesn’t make sense to me.

It is not about you and you alone, this is the part that people are not getting. Especially with the verification of asymptomatic spread (which was known for weeks now in China but no one wanted to believe it).

It is about the habits of groups of people, which are frankly bad in the current situation. If you could stop everyone from being a jerk or being careless, many of the places that have been closed could still be open. Many were only closed when officials went by and saw people being inappropriate. One by one that happened, certainly around here. They banned parking in a local town park with a great walking path for people with carriages, because officials went by and saw that parking in there was encouraging too much congregation. So now people have to walk from further away to get there and that has solved the problem.

In Boston the parks were shut down after the mayor went by and saw people partying in normal larger groups. At camp sites north of here people were arriving early from out of the area and trying to turn something that is set up to support limited use into a long term residence. At boat launches people were parking cheek to cheek in the lots and gathering way too much at the edge of the water.

Experience has shown that at least in this country people are lousy at doing the right thing. Cuomo sadly needed to raise the fine for violation of the rules to $1000 to get the attention of the worst offenders. Not most of us, and not too bad around where I am, but it happens. A jerk in Rochester went into the birthing room with his wife knowing he had symptoms. A religious community in Brooklyn has sworn they will maintain their normal funeral habits and it is likely to produce a lovely story about police arrests soon. Places like Katterskill Falls just attract problems.

A friend of mine has gone to a local park a couple of times early in the morning and things have been as they should. Three cars in the parking lot and she never even saw the occupants of the other cars while walking the trail. We don’t have leaves yet so they were decidedly well apart.

Unfortunately it is as easy to find an instance of people being jerks. Authorities have little choice.

The college that is a hike up the hill from where I live is shut down but the grounds are being maintained. Between the health benefits of climbing a total of 30 flights of steps to get up the approach and to the main quad of the campus and the landscaping and views, it is a heck of a nice resource. But I fear every time I go that someone will have been stupid and had a big party that forces the college to ban people from the grounds.

It’s a frustrating aspect of human behavior, that’s for sure. As in: “You can’t fix stupid.” Or arrogance, or selfishness.

I live in a fairly rural area and even here the state has closed the state park boat launches and trailheads, Luckily the fishing access boat launches are still open. For now. My fear is that paddlers will flock to the Fish & Wildlife fishing access sites, be stupid, and the state will have to close those sites as well.

I’ve been considering finding a private launch site and asking permission to use it. Alone.

We were going to take advantage of the gorgeous weather we’ve had the last 2 days, and sneak up to the lake around the corner from us for a couple of hours. So Monday, I went & scouted out the launch. Too many cars in the lot, and people on the ramp. Waited a few hours and went back to find no cars in the lot, but wind blowing right at the ramp, and whitecaps on the water.

Yesterday we checked again, and there were only 3 or 4 cars in the lot, but the wind and waves were bigger than Monday. Too early in the season for that. Oh well, walking was the thing to do.

Our governor (Mississippi) supports individual outdoor activities which is great for kayaks/canoes. I usually paddle alone or with only one or two others at most anyway in local waters.

However, almost all parks and beaches are closed now because prior to a statewide “stay at home” order being issued, idiots gathered to party since bars had been closed. I think it is the party mindset folks who are forcing lots of closures on our government authorities. Luckily boat ramps are open since paddlers/boaters do not hang out/congregate at the launch/recover site.

I think one unusual factor is that many people that rarely if ever spend time at those outdoor venues are now going there to get some exercise and a break from being confined…plus there are more people coming to parks that would normally be working. One of our local riverfront parks is being used by a whole lot of people that I’ve never seen before and while everyone is being good about physical distancing even I’m shying away from the park as more people use it.

I totally agree that it’s tragic to deny outdoor activity to folks that want and need to stay healthy.

Maybe we need to use our outdoor experience to go to secret places that normal people don’t know about.


While physical distancing does make sense, many other regulations don’t. So many different rules for different areas. I know Canada has closed down all national parks; here in the U.S. it varies by state. Am guessing the same applies to state parks. Michigan’s parks are open (but all amenities closed) and quoting from the executive order governing Michiganders:

Individuals may leave their home or place of residence, and travel as necessary:

1. To engage in outdoor activity, including walking, hiking, running, cycling, or any other recreational activity consistent with remaining at least six feet from people from outside the individual’s household.

The “essential worker” rules vary even more. A solitary landscaping guy doing spring clean up outdoors is not allowed to work in Michigan but can in Ohio.

I personally think going for a solitary walk in the woods is safer and healthier than in the city, and certainly more so than a visit to the local grocery store.

I believe many if not most of the measures you see, including closing of outdoor venues, is reaction. I don’t actually believe much thought has gone into these extreme actions. Simple reaction with the attitude of err to the side of caution.
How right or wrong that is, what the threat level of the virus or activities because of the virus isn’t always part of the equation. From a political standpoint, I believe that anything less right now with the mood of people would be career suicide. If it was the right thing to do or not may be discussed in three or four months when this is over and data can be looked at.

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Today, my first paddle in 2020 and first since early November, shows how the total closures happen.

When I arrived, the old, closed-to-powerboating ramp had a few people on it, just standing there or fishing. Which they really shouldn’t be doing anyway when they block people from getting on the water, but that’s a different matter. They were at least 6’ apart except for what was obviously a couple. Then a mom with three very small kids arrived and I cringed, but she wisely walked with them past the ramp and along shore, stopping well away from anyone.

My paddle was serene, weather a perfect spring day, and I heard and saw coots and loons, in addition to the usual mallards and Canada geese.

About half an hour before I planned to take out, the ramp had emptied. Excellent!

Unfortunately, when I got there one group of six people had driven in and spread across the ramp, with fat momma ensconced like a beached whale in her lawn chair. Like they were scared of leaving the concrete. They sure weren’t launching boats or walking through. No way could I stay 6’ feet away from them, and the only one who moved walked TOWARD me. I literally had to pass through the gauntlet of these rude morons.

To make things even better, someone had previously let a huge dog leave a huge dump in the one narrow opening in the gauntlet. It appeared to be at least a few days old but it was submerged, so all the nearby water would have been contaminated by it. How thoughtful of that dog’s owner.

The paddle itself went very well, the takeout—UGH. I don’t dare mention the idiots clusterering at the ramp to the managing org, because they would probably shut it down to any use.

Guess I’m lucky. The playgrounds are closed at the nearby parks but the tracks and trails remain open. Had a funny thing happen yesterday. I road-bicycled with three other guys. We were getting back to town and a man and woman were walking near the road. I heard the woman say “Six feet apart! Six feet apart!” She wasn’t talking about our proximity to her because we were on the other side of the road. We were plenty spaced from one another. I guess she’s just a corona Nazi. The hypocrite was walking shoulder-to-shoulder with some man!

At the Prohibition Speakheavy Door

There’s a big wind ablowin’.
In gusts there’s debate.
Should we adopt some new math,
move our six back to eight?

Or maybe it’s forty,
as the skies toss a gale.
Covid’s in the cloud.
Pixels poison on sail!

Do we shelter in place?
Is underground social space,
wherein cold war once cancelled,
we’ve rerun human race?

If we all get out and paddle,
our own boat some direction,
surely wakes we will cross,
many without detection.

With so many vectors,
grand gravitas will pull spirals,
and even monks in their cloister
eventually go can viral.

So the fruit-fall of Newton,
without grounding a motion,
tend a course of continue.
Splash with sharks in the ocean?

It sucks to be a paddler in NYS. Someone pointed out that the state boat launches are closed.
Item 13 in the link.

I am fortunate all our Maine launches are open.

That’s another great thing about kayaks. You don’t need a boat launch to get on the water.

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Getting on the water right now in NY is not easy, not is it terribly pleasant. It is cold, and we are getting spring weather like today with a cold wind that had the Hudson in whitecaps.

There are places to get on the water that are not designated launches, and could not encourage crowds. The point of any order is to stop congregation. In fact further down in a scan of my FB updates just now there were photos of someone I know paddling a canoe out from one of those spots. He had no problem finding a way to put in. He also included some cautions about cold water etc, basically advised people to NOT put themselves at risk.

Obviously designated launches with parking lots and ramps are easier, as are marinas. Which by the way are not state parks and may have varying enforcement of things. I don’t plan to find out.

I would be quite surprised if it was necessary to shut down launches even in southern Maine right now. Except in the lakes region it is the ocean, it is still cold and not conditions for newbies. Plus no one can rent right now anyway. The situation could change on a dime if rentals opened up and meet up groups started gathering at those launches, who generally are not coming from all that far away.

That said, I know of people who are mulling over measures to reduce this risk through the wsummer.

At some places here, the only legal access that doesn’t require a very long carry is via a boat ramp. Carrying a WWK isn’t much of a burden, but heavy and/or long boats are another story. Portage carts won’t make it through the terrain and other obstacles. Forget about cliffs.

It varies a lot on the specific place and the rules in place.

I am bummed to see that a major reservoir whose opening date keeps getting postponed has already been drawn down a LOT for irrigation purposes. That can make the diff between being able to launch or not without a boat ramp.

Ok, I’m starting to see it now. The fact that I’m on the higher end of the intelligence spectrum doesn’t help because I can’t fathom the stupidity of some people’s actions.

It finally dawned on me when I arrived at work tonight (working nights now, mostly alone, to limit proximity to other people). Last night I had posted a sign in the kitchen asking people to keep the sink free of dirty dishes and to avoid leaving clean dishes right beside the sink where they are constantly being splashed by myself and others washing their hands and other things. The former is more for my protection, avoiding handling and splashing of potentially contaminated things. The latter is for the protection of others. The sign was brief and commanding but not nasty or passive-aggressive. It provided suggestions for acceptable ways to comply.

Tonight when I came in, what did I find? Of course. Dirty dishes in the sink, directly beneath the sign.

I’m sorry, who said that as a group we’re the most intelligent species on the planet? Unfortunately the virus doesn’t discriminate.

These are trying times to be sure. I wholeheartedly believe that physical distancing is a wise course of action and I have been practicing it (and wearing disposable gloves, spraying down groceries with 1:10 bleach solution before bringing them into the house, and taking to wearing a mask in public places). In fact, I live alone about nine miles from the nearest village in a township with a population of under 700, and I have lived alone for the last twenty years. Physical distancing has been a way of life for me for quite some time now. I can see where there are situations where the public health might be put in jeopardy by the actions of thoughtless folks at boat landings or on some hiking trails might call for actions that. Here in Wisconsin, despite the recent farce involving voting and the closing of poling stations virtually insuring that large crowds would be brought together for extended periods of time, I’ve seen no prohibitions on hiking trails or boat ramps and folks have been doing a reasonably good job of distancing. Yet here’s a Wisconsin Covid prohibition that has just been enacted that really baffles me and that affects me greatly. Let me explain:

I own a small bit of wooded hillside overlooking a cattail bog and trout stream that has been a source of joy and natural beauty to me for the last thirty five years. Two years ago I had a hip replaced and was laid up for the spring. Last year I had a bit of a ladder mishap and broke my leg and so was laid up for a second consecutive spring. So I now look out upon my property and can’t help noticing that I have my own little private epidemic going on. Japanese honeysuckle. It might even be called a pandemic since I can drive ten miles in any direction from where I live and never be out of sight of the stuff. Many of you may not know it, but it is an especially pernicious invasive species. Its like kudzu or purple loose-strife. Chokes out all the native forbs, the orchids and trillium, hepatica, blood root - all of 'em and many trees to boot. OK, so I can’t paddle much or go out… I can catch up with the care of my little bit of woodland. A worthy endeavor by any naturalist’s of DNR standards…

But the DNR has declared, due to Covid, that they will not issue any burn permits in the whole state and, as of a few year’s ago will not allow any outside burning at all without a permit - not even burn barrels. The idea of requiring permission to burn piles of brush cuttings, limb trimmings, or use a burn barrel on your own land seemed, when they first initiated it, a bit draconian to me. After all, use of language, backed blades, and fire are the hallmarks of our species. People have been burning in spring around here for at least 10,000 years, often successfully.
But yes, as has been already mentioned here, there are fools in this world. Some will burn in drought conditions, in the wind, leave fires unattended, etc. and fires have gotten away. So I’ll go along and not kick too hard about getting permits and informing the local fire marshal when I plan to burn my used mailing envelopes, silly as it seems. But this is a mostly rural state and most people here have been burning all there lives and, lacking rural garbage pick up, it has been a standard procedure for most folks in the state since before statehood. Around here we all learned about and remember the lesson of the Peshtigo fire… Its a sobering bit of knowledge.

But now NO burning at all? What the heck is one supposed to do with all the cut honeysuckle? One of the DNR web pages actually suggests throwing a tarp over yard waste until there’s 100% snow cover. Acres of tarp just doesn’t sound like a practical suggestion to me, nor does surrounding your house with piles of combustible fuel for half a year. Write off all the native species on your property? This really seems like a regulation that could only grow in the minds of folks who have never lived without public servants to pick up their garbage and possibly never been more that a mile from a parking meter.
And what does this regulation have to do with a virus? This is a complete non-sequitur to me. (Did you ride the bus to school or bring your own lunch?) The DNR web page explains that since its spring and many people burn in spring the risk is especially high, so it won’t be allowed at all. Due to a virus?
I really do suspect that there is either some reason for this that isn’t being articulated or there is no reasoning involved at all.

So OK, I’ll be happy to distance. I’ll stay home. I’ll wear gloves and masks and do whatever I can to help. But really, are we supposed to just sit down and watch reruns of rawhide for months on end? Is there really some good reason why productive physical activity on one’s own property must be prohibited?

Apologies… There was an inaccuracy in the preceding. Minutes after posting I got notice of a bunch of State Park closings… But at the time I wrote it (ten minutes ago I suppose) I had seen no prohibitions on hiking trails. sigh

You’re not alone. Michigan’s governor announced no burning permits will be issued because of Covid-19.

She also issued an order today prohibiting anyone owning two homes from traveling between them. No idea how it can be enforced but if per chance it is, will be interesting to see if there’s a legal challenge to that order.

I have a biking jersey that says “3 Feet Please - It’s the Law” In the past week a few people have seen it while I was riding and joked that I need to change/update the shirt to “6 Feet Please” for our time of the Corona/Covid-19 Virus.

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