Spring Lake Outpost has asked the state to be considered an essential business and remain open while coronavirus regulations are in place. Its owners said it has approval to operate until it receives a final answer.
In the midst of North Carolina’s stay at home order, outdoor recreation is finding ways to maintain social distancing guidelines.
The Spring Lake Outpost, a kayak and canoe rental company that schedules outings on the Little River, is one of those businesses.
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The business is in its fourth season. It usually kicks off its season with a Kayak Festival in March.
The new coronavirus, called COVID-19, and social distancing guidelines caused the festival to be rescheduled for some time later, but owner Izdihar “Izzy” Eaton said the business is still able to operate while following rules.
Gov. Roy Cooper signed a March 27 stay at home order outlining which businesses are essential, or approved, to stay open.
The order states that as long as social distancing is maintained and there are 10 people or less, outdoor recreation — which includes walking, hiking, running, golfing or biking — is exempt from the order.
Public playgrounds, with equipment that could increase the spread of the virus, are closed.
To ensure clarification, Spring Lake Outpost submitted a request to the North Carolina Department of Revenue to be considered an essential business.
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Engaging in outdoor activity is STILL permitted in NC as long as you are upholding social distancing requirements. We are an open outdoor recreation area enforcing maximum sanitization standards of all equipment. You can maintain your health while having fun in the sun! Come outside this weekend. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this, please don’t hesitate to reach out! 🌞🛶🌿🌎💚
“We’re confident that we will be allowed to stay open, because it falls into the same category as outdoor recreation,” Eaton said. “With measures to curb the pandemic, we feel like this is a healthy activity that can get people out of the house to breathe fresh air.”
To show that the business stands by that belief, it is offering free rentals for children ages 16 and younger.
“Until life normalizes, we understand kids are home from school and want to burn off energy,” Eaton said. “We understand there’s challenges and want to be able to relieve that financial stress and know there’s military families nearby who want to enjoy time together. This is a way to teach how to be outdoors safely and continue to produce health and wellness for families.”
Eaton said state officials have OKd the business to continue its operation until it receives a final response.
In the meantime, extra precautions are being taken, she said.
Customers are still able to rent paddles, life jackets and kayaks for three-hour periods.
All equipment, paddles and kayaks are sanitized between each use, Eaton said.
When customers arrive to check in, only one person from the party is allowed inside at a time while the others are asked to wait outside.
Time slots are at 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on weekends, and Eaton said the business is ensuring if there are multiple parties, that launch times are spaced out 15 minutes to help ensure social distancing.
Customers are asked to make reservations and payments and to sign waivers online to avoid as much “hand swapping” and close interaction as possible.
“We put in every measure possible to keep people safe, so they can also remain active, healthy and get out of their homes and enjoy the sun and fresh air, while at the same time not being surrounded by a bunch of other people,” Eaton said.
The Spring Lake Outpost isn’t the only organization that has sought guidance on outdoor recreation.
Rick’s Place closed a few days in late March and early April until Fayetteville city officials OKd certain outdoor spaces to remain open, said Allegra Jordan, executive director of Rick’s Place.
Rick’s Place is a 50-acre retreat with recreational space and activities for military families and service members.
It is operated by the nonprofit Rick Herrema Foundation and is named after Rick Herrema, a 27-year-old U.S. Army Special Operations Command soldier from Grand Rapids, Michigan, who was killed in Iraq in 2006.
Some activities are now virtual, but green space and trails are open, Jordan said.
“Families must keep social distance between themselves,” she said. “Playground and other equipment is not available at this time.”
Fort Bragg’s indoor Directorate of Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities are closed, but a few outdoor activities remain open.
“You can go out,” said Lt. Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, during an April 2 virtual town hall meeting for Fort Bragg in reference to outdoor activities. “You can fish. We have the outdoor ranges open right now … at McKellar’s Lodge — the rifle, pistol and archery — as long as we’re adhering to those social distancing (guidelines) going forward.”
Staff writer Rachael Riley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-486-3528.