COVID-19 Updates

Although only one new lab confirmed positive coronavirus test was announced for Madison County on Friday afternoon, the city of Richmond may begin to take precautionary steps to close their parks.

During Governor Andy Beshear's Thursday evening's daily address to the commonwealth, he noted that while people were getting out and enjoying the sunshine, some Kentuckians weren't practicing safe social distancing.

Because of this, Beshear told mayors and judges of counties to begin watching their communities, and determine how to move forward with the closures of parks and recreational areas.

Upon observations done by the Rob Minerich, the city's manager, and Mayor Robert Blythe at Lake Reba, the have noticed that residents of Richmond who are using the parks, seem to be ignoring the safety efforts implemented to keep a safe social distance.

"We are trying to stay ahead of whatever the curve is in respect to COVID-19 and I am seeing things that are causing concerns," Blythe told The Register Friday evening.

Richmond's mayor said, of those he saw out at Lake Reba on Friday, half of them were choosing to ignore the social distancing request made by the governor, which requires all persons stand six feet away from the other.

"First what we would like to do is give folks a warning," Blythe said. "...Thinking that folks would observe social distancing and so on, I was hoping everyone would get outside, but folks are ignoring those efforts."

Minerich agreed.

"What we are seeing is a lot of people not practicing safe social distancing," the city manager said. "We are seeing a lot of groups getting together, and we are going to tell people we are keeping the parks open, but if they don't comply (with social distancing), we will have to shut those down."

Mayor Blythe said, while the parks system is truly a testament to Richmond's pride and quality of life, he is issuing a warning that if people cannot follow and practice safe social distance, the parks in Richmond will cease to be open to the public.

"If we cant observe the measures to keep safe and healthy we will have to move to the next step of closing the parks," he said. "We will get through this thing and we will do it together. It is not my desire to be a spoil sport, but we are trying to keep safe our community."

Also following Gov. Beshear's announcement, in addition to this week's shutdown of multiple recreation areas in the Daniel Boone National Forest, public access and backcountry camping in the Red River Gorge are also temporarily suspended.

In a press release sent by the public affairs office of the Daniel Boone National Forests, the shutdown of the gorge includes all roads and trails on national forest lands. These measures are temporary but effective immediately. A date for reopening the gorge and other recreation areas in the forest is currently undetermined.

“Our decision to shut down recreation areas is in compliance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for social distancing, as well as current Kentucky state orders to help protect health and safety,” said Forest Supervisor Dan Olsen. “In addition to employee and visitor safety, we are committed to serving in the best interest of our local communities and the local residents who live near or adjacent to national forest lands.”

Some areas remain open for public use, including the general forest area and trails outside of the Red River Gorge. Other recreation areas that remain open are several campgrounds under contract management by concessionaires. All boat ramps at Cave Run Lake and Laurel River Lake are open for continued lake access.

Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter at @TaylorSixRR.

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