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Lake Ouachita park closed

Health crisis also shuts down other parks in state at night by Tanner Newton | April 4, 2020 at 3:48 a.m.

HOT SPRINGS -- Arkansas State Parks temporarily closed all facilities at Lake Ouachita State Park on Friday after a report that three people who camped there in late March tested positive for covid-19.

Melissa Whitfield, communications director for the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, said the three campers "were in some level of contact with 12 of the park's 23 employees."

All of the park's employees are now self-quarantining.

Other park rangers will patrol daily while the park is closed, Whitfield said. "It's unfortunate," she said. "We're going the extra mile to see that every employee and guest is safe."

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Whitfield said the park is working with the Arkansas Department of Health on what to do next, noting that a reopening date hasn't been set.

Lake Ouachita is the only park in the state parks system that has fully closed, Whitfield said.

However, all overnight lodgings, including campgrounds, have been closed as a response to the coronavirus, and several of the more popular trails are closed.

"When we are able, we plan to reopen the park for day use only," Whitfield said. "We want to be as proactive as possible for the safety of our employees and guests."

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday directed that Arkansas State Parks implement "day use" operations only, effective at 8 a.m. Friday, a decision that he said he made in consultation with Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism Secretary Stacy Hurst.

"Arkansas is known for our outdoor recreation, and we want to allow Arkansans to safely enjoy what our state has to offer," Hutchinson said in a statement. "These new safety measures will reduce the risk of overcrowding at our parks and discourage visitors from out-of-state until the threat of COVID-19 has passed."

The state also announced that these areas and trails will be closed:

• Cedar Falls Trail and Cedar Falls Overlook at Petit Jean State Park.

• The day-use area on Arkansas Highway 300 and the East Summit trailhead parking areas at Pinnacle Mountain State Park, including access to the West Summit, East Summit, Kingfisher and Base Trails, the Little Maumelle River Boat Ramp and the Picnic Area.

• Fossil Flats Mountain Bike Trail and the Woody Plants Trail at Devil's Den State Park.

Metro on 04/04/2020

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