Pa. can’t, won’t enforce hikers, anglers stay-at-home | News, Sports, Jobs


HARRISBURG — Other than asking people to recreate close to home and practice social distancing while they do it, Pennsylvania’s outdoor agencies can’t and won’t do much more about people traveling long distances across the state to get to outdoor destinations during the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s the message that emerged in a joint press conference held today by the Pennsylvania Department and Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, as multiple reporters from all parts of the state noted the extensive travel being done by some recreationists despite a stay at home order from Governor Tom Wolf.

“The governor is doing so much messaging about it. I think the message is sinking in,” said Cindy Adams Dunn, executive director of DCNR. “We’re doing everything we can through communications and the media. Beyond messaging that’s the best we can do.”

Both she and Tim Schaeffer, executive director of the Fish and Boat Commission, noted that field personnel for their agencies have noted widespread and improving social distancing by people hiking and fishing.

Both agencies have interpreted the stay at home order to encourage outdoor enthusiasts to get their recreation close to home, within 15 minutes or so of their home, while practicing social distancing and wearing face masks.

But reporters repeatedly noted large numbers of people traveling long distances to camps and to other desired outdoor destinations. Reporters from media in northern Pennsylvania pointed out that camps there are packed, and many out-of-state license plates can be seen on vehicles parked at the camps.

In addition, social media is packed with thousands of hikers and anglers sharing their recent trips to destinations far from home, explaining how they interpret state guidance to allow that activity or how they disguise their non-compliance, and flatly stating they have no intention of staying close to home.

Dunn reiterated, “Do not leave your community to recreate. We’re trying to reinforce that message.”

She acknowledged, “It’s had a tremendous effect on a lot of people, but there are a number of people choosing to ignore it.”

DCNR Deputy Secretary John Norbeck noted, “We don’t see a situation where we’re going to citing people” for violating the stay at home order.

Schaeffer said the commission is taking the same position.

“Messaging is the way to go,” said Norbeck. “We are not using law enforcement to enforce the stay at home order. There are some outliers, but generally we’ve had very good compliance.”

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