Pawtuckaway State Park to limit COVID-19 spread

Vehicles line the Deerfield entrance to Pawtuckaway State Park last Saturday.

The state’s decision to allow Pawtuckaway State Park to remain open during the coronavirus pandemic continues to concern local officials who have asked Gov. Chris Sununu to shut it down, just as he did with state beaches along the Seacoast.

Sununu has so far refused to close the park to prevent visitors from hiking and other outdoor recreational activities.

The towns of Nottingham and Raymond submitted a petition last week expressing concerns about the park attracting visitors who could potentially spread the coronavirus in their communities, place more demand on local supply chains and increase the risk of exposure to first responders.

Raymond Town Manager Joseph Ilsley said he’s especially worried about visitors coming from high-risk areas in Massachusetts, where there are now nearly 14,000 confirmed cases.

The park is located in Nottingham and Deerfield, but most of the local businesses that could attract visitors on their way to and from the park are in Raymond.

Ilsley said the state closed the Deerfield entrance to the park over the weekend — a move that will only force all visitors to use the Nottingham entrance that’s closer to Raymond.

As of Monday, Ilsley said he’s received no response from the governor’s office.

“I am still confident that the governor will do the right thing, but not responding to Nottingham and Raymond’s petition, and then to divert the traffic through Nottingham and Raymond is disappointing. We’re willing to support the governor in any way possible. However, we do urge him to take this seriously,” Ilsley said.

While keeping state parks open with the exception of all state beaches on the Seacoast, Sununu has tried to encourage residents to find recreational opportunities in their own communities through an initiative launched last week called the “Home Hike Challenge.” Many people responded by posting photographs of their hikes on social media.

“The thinking behind the Home Hike Challenge was to avoid those major hiking areas where many folks from out of state have been going, and as I’ve repeatedly stated, no governor can close down the border,” Sununu said at a Monday press conference in which he provided an update to the state’s response to the public health crisis.

Sununu did not specifically address the concerns raised by local officials regarding state parks like Pawtuckaway.

Thursday, June 04, 2020