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Park begins accepting camping reservations ADVERTISEMENT

Park begins accepting camping reservations

WATKINS GLEN--The New York State Parks Department has started the process of fully opening Watkins Glen State Park as the region continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with accepting new reservations for any time after June 22, the parks department has also announced the Gorge Trail has been reopened in a limited fashion.
Brian Nearing, deputy public information officer with the New York State Parks Department said prior to the announcement the park would be reopened by the Parks Department as soon as possible.
"We can react as the situation calls for it but all we can do is address the situation we are in today," Nearing said last week.
While the park is now accepting reservations online, walk-ups are no longer allowed and there have been modifications to camping rules. New rules include gatherings are only limited to family, there might be limited access to bathrooms as they are cleaned, all campground events and programs have been suspended, and park social distancing ambassadors will monitor the campgrounds to ensure that social distancing is being practiced.
Along with the campground, the Gorge Trail has also been reopened with modifications. According to the Parks Department, the trail only is open on a limited schedule, and face coverings will be required due to the tight proximity of the trail. Other trails remained open during the pandemic.
Before the announcement that the park would be taking new reservations, Watkins Glen Mayor Luke Leszyk said reopening the park was tantamount for the village's economic success.
"I think it is very important and I am very grateful that the park stayed partially open through this course of events... (the) camping and the gorge trail... are an asset to our tourist drive in the area," Leszyk said.
While it will be impossible to completely replace what was lost during the months of April and May, a full reopening could aid in salvaging the summer.
"In order to get back to some semblance of normal we need the park to reopen fully," Leszyk said.
With 2019 seeing over 1 million visitors to the park, an all time high, Nearing said he understands the local desire to see the state park reopened.
"(The park) is a huge economic driving force (for Watkins Glen) that (the parks department) understands everyone wants open. Everybody wants normal as soon as it can be," Nearing said.

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