DELVAL OUTDOORS NEWS ROUNDUP, APRIL 26, 2020

The question grows: should NJ reopen its parks? A former GOP governor chides his party on “abandoning” environmental causes. And, an invasive nemesis returns to SEPA.

Yup, it’s that time of year: baby goslings. These fluffballs were spotted near the Delaware River on the beautiful spring day of April 25, 2020. [Photo: Kyle Bagenstose]

By Kyle Bagenstose

For anyone following this news roundups on a regular basis, I apologize that it’s been a week since the last update. DelVal Outdoors is a side project of mine, and the daytime gig at the USA Today Network kind of turned into a round-the-clock job covering COVID-19 this week, so I wasn’t able to get to as many roundups as I would have liked.

Will try to do better in the future!

But enough about me. Plenty of environmental news to catch up on:

This week’s headlines and highlights

Let’s start with this op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, asking “Is it time to reopen New Jersey Parks?

I’ve been seeing an increasing amount of chatter online about the impacts of Gov. Phil Murphy’s decision earlier this month to completely close state and county parks. While townships were left to make their own decisions, many also shuttered their parks and trailheads, leaving basically no access for residents to recreate nearby, taking off even the simple joy of taking a dog for a walk at the nature trail down the street. All in the name of public health, which makes a certain amount of sense.

But with additional anecdotes of New Jersey license plates showing up at parks just across the PA border– such as the Delaware Water Gap– and reporting elsewhere suggesting the virus transmits poorly outside, I personally am really starting to question the cost-benefit ratio of such a complete shutdown. The Inquirer op-ed further makes the case with scientific arguments.

Continue reading “DELVAL OUTDOORS NEWS ROUNDUP, APRIL 26, 2020”

15 WITHIN 15: Fishing the Wissahickon

On my quest to do 15 outdoor activities within 15 minutes of home, fishing in the Wissahickon Creek was a no-brainer.

The Wissahickon Creek as seen before the start of a fishing session on April 19, 2020. [Photo: Kyle Bagenstose]

By Kyle Bagenstose

15 minutes.

That’s the driving distance limit being championed by an increasing number of groups, including the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, for outdoor recreation under the novel coronavirus.

The idea is to stay near home and limit the spread of the disease by decreasing community-to-community infection. But it’s a tough pill to swallow: those not blessed to be immediately adjacent to their favorite recreational spots might not have much recreational opportunity within a quarter of an hour. I know it’s put my plans on hold: a guys’ trip to the Poconos in early May is off, planned visits to new state parks in northwest and southwest Pennsylvania delayed, and a goal to visit Acadia National Park by the end of the year is up in the air.

Nevermind my usual trips from Philly to campgrounds like French Creek and trail networks like Hawk Mountain.

But, I’ve decided to give it a go. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to do 15 outdoor activities within 15 minutes (maybe a few extra depending on the red lights!) to see how it feels. I’m trying to approach this with what some call “beginner’s mind.” Looking carefully for nature and taking it slow in places I may have only sped through before. But I also plan to turn it up a notch from time to time: Can I get my vigorous exercise and strenuous accomplishment kicks within 15 minutes of home?

We’ll see.

Activity 2: Fishing the Wissahickon in northwest Philly

Continue reading “15 WITHIN 15: Fishing the Wissahickon”

Where can I kayak in the Delaware Valley under COVID-19?

It’s a patchwork of which state and county waterways are open. Find out the status of your favorite local spot.

Kayaking the Delaware Water Gap in late summer 2019. Several launch points remain open under COVID-19, but the recreation area has closed overnight campsites. [Photo: Kyle Bagenstose]

By Kyle Bagenstose

(Note: This article last updated 4/19/20. Readers should verify a waterway’s status before visiting.)

As spring temperatures rise, so too does the desire to canoe and kayak. But under the novel coronavirus, big paddles are off. The Schuylkill River Sojourn has been postponed, while the Delaware River Sojourn is in wait-and-see mode, pushing back its opening registration date to May 1.

Elsewhere, many parks, waterways, and launch points are closing, including in all state and county parks in New Jersey.

But for some in the Delaware Valley, there’s good news: state parks and their waterways remain open, and a few select counties also have accessible waterways. Paddling on the Schuykill and Delaware Rivers, as long as accessed through an open boat ramp, is also still allowed.

Please note that almost all Parks & Recreation agencies are calling for extreme caution, encouraging recreation be kept within 15 minutes of home and social distancing guidelines be observed. Also, several officials noted that there may be decreased vigilance as park offices are closed and staffing curtailed. In many places, paddling will be riskier than normal.

Check out our list below to see what remains open.

Continue reading “Where can I kayak in the Delaware Valley under COVID-19?”

DELVAL OUTDOORS NEWS ROUNDUP, APRIL 18, 2020

A county park system re-opens, NJDEP sues BurlCo residents for starting massive Pinelands fire, and scientists talk air quality under COVID-19.

Flowers flash their colors through the fence of Greensgrow Fams in Philadelphia. [Photo: Kyle Bagenstose]

By Kyle Bagenstose

Is our middling spring weather a blessing or a curse? This weekend is perfectly “meh,” with unreliable intervals of sunshine coupled with temps hovering around 50 degrees. Then, mostly rain and cooler temps forecasted at least until next weekend.

On one hand, I yearn for those warm, glorious spring days to arrive. On the other, the lack of ideal outdoor recreation weather makes me a little less glum about not being able to hit the trails and campgrounds like I normally would be.

Today’s headlines and highlights

A few days worth of news to catch up on.

Let’s start with a dose of good news, as the Bucks County Courier Times’ James McGinnis reports that the Bucks County park system will re-open to residents on Monday. It wasn’t quite clear what the status of the park system was before, but officials are officially giving the OK for residents to return as long as they practice safe social distancing.

Continue reading “DELVAL OUTDOORS NEWS ROUNDUP, APRIL 18, 2020”

15 within 15: A walk around my philly Neighborhood

I’m angling to do 15 outings within 15 minutes of home. I start with the simplest of all: a stroll around my Philly neighborhood.

The muscovy duck at Greensgrow Farms in Kensington. A highlight of any nature-lover’s stroll around the neighborhood. [Photo: Kyle Bagenstose]

By Kyle Bagenstose

15 minutes.

That’s the driving distance limit being championed by an increasing number of groups, including the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, for outdoor recreation under the novel coronavirus.

The idea is to stay near home and limit the spread of the disease by decreasing community-to-community infection. But it’s a tough pill to swallow: those not blessed to be immediately adjacent to their favorite recreational spots might not have much recreational opportunity within a quarter of an hour. I know it’s put my plans on hold: a guys’ trip to the Poconos in early May is off, planned visits to new state parks in northwest and southwest Pennsylvania delayed, and a goal to visit Acadia National Park by the end of the year is up in the air.

Nevermind my usual trips from Philly to campgrounds like French Creek and trail networks like Hawk Mountain.

But, I’ve decided to give it a go. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to do 15 outdoor activities within 15 minutes (maybe a few extra depending on the red lights!) to see how it feels. I’m trying to approach this with what some call “beginner’s mind.” Look carefully for nature and take it slow in places I may have only sped through before. But I also plan to turn it up a notch from time to time: Can I get my vigorous exercise and strenuous accomplishment kicks within 15 minutes of home?

We’ll see.

Continue reading “15 within 15: A walk around my philly Neighborhood”

DELVAL OUTDOORS NEWS ROUNDUP, APRIL 14, 2020

Debates on crowded parks and closures continue in NJ and Philly. A petition to save “Graffiti Highway” in Centralia. And, does PA have its own Tiger Kings?

The moon (rises, sets?) over the Wissahickon Creek on the early morning of April 12, 2020. [Photo: Kyle Bagenstose]

By Kyle Bagenstose

Today brings a fine spring day: mostly sunny skies with temperatures over 50 degrees by morning and adding a few more into the afternoon. Looks like the first of a string of three such days, which are perfect for a just slightly bundled walk, hike, or bike ride.

Today’s headlines and highlights

Let’s start in New Jersey, where Gov. Phil Murphy’s order to shutdown all state and county parks still stands after a week. Radio station New Jersey 101.5 reports that yesterday, some Republicans members of the state Assembly made a push to pass a resolution urging Murphy to rescind the order, calling it a well-intentioned mistake. Assemblyman Jay Webber, from Morris County, didn’t throw any bombs in making the push, instead arguing that other policy options like shuttering only some parks or closing them to out of state visitors would be a better option.

Democrats didn’t buy, shutting down the push in a procedural vote, 52-27. Later in the day, NJDEP commissioner Catherine McCabe released a statement that appeared aimed at offering an empathetic response to those wanting to see parks re-open while still reinforcing the closure.

Continue reading “DELVAL OUTDOORS NEWS ROUNDUP, APRIL 14, 2020”

DELVAL OUTDOORS NEWS ROUNDUP, APRIL 13, 2020

How PA did a “soft” launch of trout season, signs of tension with outdoor restricts, and online educational opporunities

Toleration statue looks out over the Wissahickon Valley in northwest Philadelphia on April 11, 2020. [Photo: Kyle Bagenstose]

By Kyle Bagenstose

The week opens with a storm-filled day, and unfortunately looks like it will roll right into cooler and gray weather ahead. Really no signs of those glorious, gorgeous spring days anytime in the near future, but I know I’ll be on the lookout for spots of sunshine this week to get outdoors.

Today’s headlines and highlights

It was also a slow weekend for environmental news in the Delaware Valley. If there’s a continuing trend I’m seeing, it’s tension between those advocating for restrictions on outdoor activities in light of COVID-19 and some parts of the recreational community.

There’s a growing list of best practice pieces. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has a piece up on how to ride a bike safely during COVID-19, while PennLive’s Marcus Schneck wrote “Outdoor etiquette: How not to be a jerk during the coronavirus pandemic.” The pieces follow our posting last week of basic guidelines for backpacking and camping in Pennsylvania under the new coronavirus, and we hope to have a similar piece up this week for paddling.

Continue reading “DELVAL OUTDOORS NEWS ROUNDUP, APRIL 13, 2020”

DelVal Outdoors News Roundup, April 10, 2020

Philly debates park closings, Water Gap and Allegheny announce closures, Trump admin to open PA, NJ, DE wildlife refuges to hunting and fishing.

The Twin Bridges near East Falls Philadelphia (and a railroad), as seen by kayak on April 6, 2020 [Photo: Kyle Bagenstose]

By Kyle Bagenstose

On Monday, I took my kayak out for the first time this year, to catch some sun on the Schuylkill off Philly’s Kelly Drive. “Maybe I’ll hit it again Friday,” I thought.

Nope: it seems we’ve lost some of that sunshine from earlier in the week and are looking at a high of just 50 degrees under cloudly skies today. But it’s up to 57 tomorrow and maybe even 70 on Sunday, so hopefully there are some opportunities to fish, paddle, or kayak to be had.

Today’s headlines and highlights

Philly parks reaching a boiling point? Perhaps what most caught my eye over the past 24 hours was this editorial from the Inquirer’s editorial board, calling on Mayor Jim Kenney to follow New Jersey’s lead and close all of the city’s parks and facilities. The Inquirer takes the time to note all of the negatives that come from such a decision, but ultimately concludes that it’s in the interest of public health, particularly as crowding has continued and residents have ignored the partial closures of basketball courts and other city assets.

Continue reading “DelVal Outdoors News Roundup, April 10, 2020”

Can I camp or backpack in Pennsylvania under coronavirus? Should I?

What’s legally open, and what’s ethically doable?

A view from the Appalachian Trail near Hamburg in April 2019. [Photo: Kyle Bagenstose]

By Kyle Bagenstose

If you’re like me, early spring is a favorite time of year. As temperatures warm, I head down to the basement to dust off and take inventory of all my camping and backpacking gear. Living in Philadelphia, French Creek State Park and Hickory Run State Park are typically my first targets, where I’ll spend a night or two to get back in the swing of things before targeting parks or backpacking trails farther afield.

This year however, COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in all those plans. Many campgrounds are shuttered, and there also seems to be a gray area between what’s legal to do and what’s recommended. I’ve seen this gray area spark many wars of words in online backpacking and hiking groups. So I’ve attempted to assemble a useful guide here of what’s open and closed, along with the do’s and don’ts.

Should I be camping or backpacking?

Let’s start here. And let’s be clear: we’re in the middle of a global pandemic. While it’s certainly annoying and dispiriting that COVID-19 is impacting our ability to do the activities we love most, that burden pales in comparison to those who are fighting for their lives or love somebody who may have already lost theirs. A chunk of warm weather lost to camping is far less valuable than a lost life.

But, health experts and leaders in government obviously do recognize the value of getting outdoors. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s statewide shutdown order explicitly allows for “life-sustaining” activities like exercise and hiking.

So what’s what?

Continue reading “Can I camp or backpack in Pennsylvania under coronavirus? Should I?”

DelVal Outdoors News Roundup, April 9, 2020

What parks are open in closed, in Philly and beyond? In the good news department, the show goes on for a a local watershed association’s fundraiser, and a new statewide website launches to stop illegal dumping.

The Wissahickon Creek rolls on at a good clip following overnight storms on April 8, 2020. [Photo: Kyle Bagenstose]

By Kyle Bagenstose

Today’s headlines and highlights

This morning starts us off surprisingly sunny and nice. My iPhone had been predicting a kind of gray day with early afternoon storms and then wind. But as of mid-morning it is quite beautiful outside, although there looks to still be a chance of storms and subsequent winds. This may not age well.

If you’ve got 15 minutes and have an interest in Philadelphia parks, spend it on this episode of WHYY’s The Why. Host Shai Ben-Yaacov interviews Plan Philly’s Meir Rinde and WHYY’s Catalina Jaramillo about the past, present, and future of Philly parks. They do a great job articulating some of the angst I’ve felt as an outdoor-lover in Philadelphia: parks remain open, but they also remain crowded. Are they at risk of closure? How could our relationships to open spaces change post-COVID19? They also dive into a fascinating history of the development of parks as a remedy to protect public health and ward off water-borne diseases.

If you’re wondering which parks and trails are open in the Delaware Valley, check out our living list of what’s open and closed. We published it yesterday but will try and keep it up to date throughout the crisis.

Continue reading “DelVal Outdoors News Roundup, April 9, 2020”