Rails-to-Trails | Connecting America Like Never Before


2021 Rails to Trails Winter Issue

Connecting America like never before. That’s the overarching theme of this issue—which explores local and regional trail networks in America that are at the crest of the connectivity wave, and how they are unlocking new opportunities for millions of people.

Here’s the Latest Expert Guidance on Outdoor Activity and COVID-19

Posted 04/18/20 by Amy Kapp in Trail UseHealth and Wellness

As Americans work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 across the United States, public health professionals continue to provide important safety guidance on engaging in outdoor physical activity—which experts maintain is important for individual health and wellness as long as people maintain 6 feet of distance between each other.  

In conjunction with shelter-in-place orders issued by states and localities across the country, experts are urging people to stay as close to home as possible when seeking places to be active in the outdoors and to engage in physical activity on their own (or only with individuals they have already been cohabitating with).


They are also suggesting face coverings as a voluntary public-health measure to avoid spreading the virus to others.  

New guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the safe use of parks and outdoor recreation facilities reinforce these recommendations.  

Here’s the latest on how to safely be outdoors in the midst of COVID-19. 

On April 10, the CDC published recommendations for protecting oneself when visiting parks, trails and open spaces, so you can “Know Before You Go.”  

This includes: staying 6 feet away from others at all times; washing hands and using hand sanitizer; not congregating with others outside your household; avoiding playgrounds, water parks, or any and all crowded parks and trails; and staying close to home (only visiting locations that are within a short walk or bike ride of home and avoiding going to open spaces that require longer travel). Organized activities are not recommended. 

Read the detailed list of recommendations on the CDC website.  

Additionally—the American Hiking Society has posted this great list of recommendations and tips for hiking responsibly in the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic, which they update regularly as conditions change. 

Transmission and Running/Bicycling Slipstreams 

There has been a lot of discussion in recent days about how much distance is needed between people in the outdoors—particularly with regard to slipstreams (zones of pulled air behind people who are running or bicycling) and COVID-19 transmission. The jury is still out as public debate continues between researchers and health experts.  

The best advice ultimately continues to be: Use good judgment in each individual situation. 

In an April 14 CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer, Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta—when asked by a viewer if a runner should avoid being directly behind someone even if they are farther than 6 feet—said that ultimately, while the data suggests you can still run outdoors, it’s a matter of common sense: There is no magic number for which the virus will or won’t spread when in front of or behind someone; people should just seek to stay as far away from others as possible when they are running—and keep people out of eyesight if they can. 


Recommendations Related to Cloth Face Coverings  

Recent CDC guidance indicates, however, that masks, when worn outdoors and/or on the trail, could help limit the spread of droplets and keep other people safer. 

The CDC maintains that the “virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.” As such, the CDC recommends that people wear face coverings (which can be made from household items) as an additional voluntary health measure in public settings, including outside spaces, where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, and particularly in areas of significant community-based transmission.   

It’s important to note that this is advised to prevent people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.  


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