While Gov. Brian Kemp has faced a lot of criticism for keeping the state’s parks, lakes and beaches open during his statewide shelter-in-place order, those out enjoying them over the weekend are glad he did.
Vogel State Park in Union County had just a fraction of the usual number of visitors for a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon in April.
Michael Caldwell of Atlanta was tired of being cooped up and was glad to be outdoors.
“You’re not overrun with people. Everybody’s far enough apart. And it’s something from a mental standpoint -- it gives you the ability to come out and enjoy and take in some serenity, but to also get out and get some exercise,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.
Brittany Henger, also from Atlanta, brought her two dogs.
“I think it’s an adequate amount (of people). People are wanting to get out of the house but are respecting the stay-at-home order,” she says.
Kemp refused to close Georgia’s parks, lakes and beaches as a part of his order to allow people to get outdoors to fish, boat and hike. State park campsites were also open but playgrounds were closed.
Local authorities on Tybee Island have been very vocal of their dislike for his decision and the mayor has threatened to file suit.
Still, images posted on Kemp’s Facebook page and his Twitter account over the weekend, show few people on the beaches with a state trooper monitoring the beach.
Rangers with the Department of Natural Resources have also been out on lakes and at parks to make sure social distancing rules are being followed.
One ranger at Vogel told Parrish he never had to break up any crowds and that people were following the guidelines posted on signs throughout the park.
At Amicalola Falls State Park, people spent the day hiking trails, climbing steps at the waterfall, and fishing.
But far fewer than normal. Many empty parking spaces could be found.
The Massey family from Alpharetta was happy to spend the day hiking around Vogel although they found trails that run through the Chattahoochee National Forest closed by the U.S. Forest Service due to the nationwide shutdown. They hiked around the lake instead.
“The thing I like about this is we get to get out and talk and hike with the kids. I’m really glad that the governor has decided to keep the parks open. I think that it’s a good thing,” says John Massey.