National forest groups promote safety & social distancing outdoors ahead of Memorial Day weekend

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The USDA Forest Service and National Association of State Foresters are reminding people about outdoor safety ahead of Memorial Day weekend.

‘Keep Our Safe Spaces Safe’ urges the public to follow wildfire prevention tips, in addition to following CDC guidelines this year amid the pandemic.

Fire prevention begins as soon as guests arrive, USDA Forest Service education specialist Amtchat Edwards explained.

“We want you to park in appropriate places once you get there, because even the underside of your car could be hot. And if you parking in somewhere there’s tall, dry grass, you could start a fire unknowingly,” Edwards said.

It’s also important to make sure all flames in campfires and grills are completely put out.

“We want to put them out by drowning them, stirring them and then drowning them again. To make sure that they’re really out,” Edwards said.

Texas state parks are taking measures to enforce CDC guidelines, including limiting capacity to cut down on crowds.

“Before going out to any state park you need to make an advanced reservation for day use,” Texas Parks and Wildlife spokesperson Stephanie Garcia explained. “So if you’re just going to the day you’re going to need passes in advance and you can do so on our website we have an online reservation system, or you can do so also through our customer service center over the phone.”

If the park is already full for the day, try choosing another on the TPWD’s interactive map, which also shows which parks are officially open.

“Those are spread out from every corner of the state from El Paso all the way to the Louisiana border,” Garcia said. “So even though, you know, if you don’t get into the park of your choice, there are many other options and it’s a chance to really explore some of those new places in parks you haven’t experienced before.”

This can also be useful if the park you show up to is crowded, which would make social distancing difficult.

“You can even select more than one place to go to in case the first one you get too close or crowded, you can move on to the next one,” Edwards explained.

Right now at state parks, face masks are recommended, but not required.

“Some of the rules that we do have in place right now is making sure that you keep a six foot distance from people that are outside of your group. And those groups can’t be any larger than five if you’re within the same household or family,” Garcia explained.

Before heading to a city park, it’s also important to check local closures.

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