The Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry is closing the campsites at Prentice Cooper and Franklin State Forests until further notice. A surge in the number of campers is creating safety and health concerns for the public and forestry staff.
“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are suspending overnight camping at these state forests,” State Forester David Arnold said. “We do not take this decision lightly. Our forests provide passive recreational opportunities like hiking and hunting, and are great places to enjoy the natural world. However, large numbers of people are closely congregating at these campsites, and we want to do our part to minimize the potential spread of illness.”
Prentice Cooper and Franklin State Forests remain open for daytime use. The Division of Forestry joins the Centers for Disease Control and the Tennessee Department of Health in encouraging residents to avoid discretionary travel and only visit state forests close to home.
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture urges all visitors to follow CDC guidelines for good health and to preserve the forest:
• Unlike many parks, state forests do not have restroom facilities or running water. Plan accordingly. Clean hands with liquid sanitizer or wipes with at least 60 percent alcohol.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
• Don’t congregate in a group. Maintain distance of at least six feet between you and others while walking, hiking or biking.
• Instead of visiting the most popular locations, like Snooper’s Rock at Prentice Cooper State Forest, try a path less traveled.
• Bring a suitable trash bag. Take everything out that you bring in to protect the forest and forestry staff.
• If you feel sick, do not visit a state forest.
Access the latest information on Tennessee’s response to COVID-19 online at www.tn.gov/governor/covid-19.html. Follow @TNAgriculture on Facebook and Twitter for updates.