Great Falls Park Has No Fees, Busy Weekends Amid Coronavirus

Emily Leayman

This article originally appeared on the McLean Patch

MCLEAN, VA — Great Falls Park continues to operate with changes amid the new coronavirus situation. At times during the March 21-22 weekends, the park was busy enough that parking filled up.

The national park had suspended fee collection and closed the visitor center as of March 17. Public restrooms and drinking water is no longer available, the park announced on March 26.

The park reported several instances of parking filling up over the last weekend, indicating busy conditions. On Saturday, March 21, parking was full as of 2:15 p.m. until at least 3:30 p.m., Great Falls Park reported on Facebook. The parking lot filled two times on Sunday, March 22: at 12:45 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. Even after the entrance road reopened, the park said visitors would see delays and crowds for the remainder of both days.

The National Park Service asked visitors to consider going before or after the busiest times (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.). In addition, visitors should caution at the overlook areas, which are the most crowded areas of the park, and consider trails other than River Trail, which is the most popular in the park.

The National Park Service says outdoor spaces are open when it's feasible to follow social distancing and other public health guidance.

"When contemplating a visit to a national park, the NPS asks people to act responsibly with regards to CDC and state and local guidelines to prevent the spread of infectious diseases," the NPS public health update page states. "Slowing the spread of novel coronavirus is everyone's responsibility."

NPS Public Health Service asks visitors to follow these measures to protect themselves and high-risk individuals:

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
    • While an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%–95% alcohol can be used, it’s best to reserve those resources for work locations where soap and water are not readily available.
  • If your hands are visibly dirty, soap and water should be used rather than hand sanitizer.
  • Wash with soap and water to destroy the virus. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • As always, it is especially important to clean hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. Regular household cleaners will destroy the virus.
  • The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
  • Stay home when you are sick in order to avoid exposing others.

Visitors should check for updates on the Great Falls Park website before going.