Partners protect habitat and expand outdoor recreation | News

We know from experience that maintaining permanent vegetative cover along the shorelines of rivers, streams and lakes leads to higher quality water and wildlife habitat. That’s why conservation groups are working with public partners and landowners to protect land along the Cannon River.

Thanks to the collaborative work of the Trust for Public Land, Goodhue County, and the Cannon River Watershed Partnership, the Minnesota DNR will add 205 acres to the Cannon River Turtle Preserve Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) and the Cannon Valley Trail will add 9 acres to this public trail system. The effort will help protect habitat important for turtles, such as Blanding’s turtle, one of southeast Minnesota’s rarest turtle species. It will also provide opportunities for wildlife-based recreation including hiking, hunting, fishing, bird-watching, and nature observation.

The addition of these newly protected lands is the outcome of people working together to achieve a shared vision for land stewardship. “This land protection project is emblematic of the great work The Trust for Public Land is doing with partners to protect lands along the Cannon River,” said DJ Forbes, Project Manager for The Trust for Public Land. According to Forbes, by coordinating with and responding to the priorities of the MN DNR, Goodhue County and the Cannon Valley Trail, land with exceptional natural resource value and immense outdoor recreation opportunities has been protected for Minnesotans to utilize and enjoy.

“This is an excellent opportunity for young and old to be a part of nature and protect the areas for future citizens to enjoy,” said Brad Anderson Goodhue County District 2 Commissioner and Cannon River Watershed Partnership Board Member. “The coordinated efforts of the organizations is the best way to acquire and protect these sensitive areas right outside our back doors,” he said.

The Cannon River, one of Minnesota’s seven Wild and Scenic designated rivers, flows through the newly protected land near its confluence with the Mississippi River in Red Wing. The land is primarily made up of floodplain forest, yet it also has steep slopes and prairie habitat high above the Cannon River. It also includes a calcareous fen, one of Minnesota’s rarest wetland types.

The Cannon Valley Trail also passes through this newly protected property. The beautiful 19.7-mile Cannon Valley Trail connects the cities of Cannon Falls, Welch and Red Wing, providing great opportunities to walk, run, and bike. According to CVT Manager Scott Roepke, a ‘Cultural Heritage’ park, planned for this new 9-acre parcel, will allow trail visitors to explore a unique flat-topped archeological mound and other culturally significant sites.

The 205-acre addition to the Cannon River Turtle Preserve SNA, which was funded by the Outdoor Heritage Fund, increases the SNA in size by nearly 25% and continues the protection of this dynamic environment. This SNA contains southern terrace floodplain and maple-basswood forest, oak-hickory woodland, and prairie with ongoing prairie reconstructions that look down on the Cannon River. This land is critical habitat for the “threatened” Blanding’s Turtle. The MN DNR’s SNA Program protects the best

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The most fascinating forbidden places in the world

The ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic has made bustling cities like New York resemble ghost towns. Social distancing has shut national parks and turned tropical paradises into forbidden islands. But instead of dreaming about canceled trips, why not learn about some strange places that have always been forbidden? Here’s Some Adventure Travel Inspiration for When the COVID-19 Pandemic Ends Turns out there’s been an actual ghost town (that’s North Brother Island, by the way) within New York City limits for 80 years. And some islands have long been prohibited—for fascinating reasons. While all the places below are restricted in some way, a few can be visited by invitation, seen from afar, or experienced through replicas (once travel restrictions have ended). For now, there’s no time quite like a self-quarantine for descending into the online rabbit hole, where you’ll find plenty of photos and information for a virtual vacation. 1. Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Ukraine In April 1986, an electrical test triggered a chain reaction at the Chernobyl No.4 nuclear reactor. The explosion and resulting reactor fire spewed radioactive particles into the atmosphere for nine days, becoming the worst nuclear accident in history. Shortly after the meltdown, a sarcophagus of concrete and lead was built over the reactor, and an exclusion zone was established with a radius of 19 miles. This Zone of Alienation was later expanded to 1,000 square miles and contains some of the most radioactively contaminated places on earth. In recent years, the New Safe Confinement, a steel entombment structure, was built over the previous sarcophagus. Since 2011, tour groups have been allowed to visit parts of the zone.

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Weymouth Public Schools cancel April vacation – News – Weymouth News

WEYMOUTH – School officials have officially canceled April school vacation.

Superintendent of Schools Jennifer Curtis-Whipple said the cancellation of the vacation would restore four school days.

“We changed the last day of school to June 19,” she said on Friday, April 10. “It was on June 20.”

The April vacation period, which is April 21-24, also includes Patriots Day, April 20, a state holiday.

Schools have not been in session since March 16 under emergency declarations issued by Gov. Charlie Baker and Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund.

Baker extended the date for schools to remain closed until May 4.

The emergency order exempts school districts from having to fulfill a state law that requires students to attend classes for 185 days.

Curtis-Whipple said administrators determined it would be better for students to complete academic lessons during the April vacation period because they are at home under Baker’s stay-at-home-advisory.

Teachers in all grades have prepared academic lessons for students, which they access by email, websites, and online-video-conference sessions.

“Some students can be given an activity without having to do anything electronically,” Curtis-Whipple said. “Not everybody has the capacity to do online learning.”

School officials recently distributed 600 Chromebooks to students who don’t have computers in their homes, according to Curtis-Whipple.

The school district has created 70 “professional learning communities,” which consist of academic instruction by electronic and non-electronic methods.

Curtis-Whipple said the schools have an optional learning structure for all students to receive instruction under the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s guidelines.

“It’s a suggested learning structure, but it is not mandatory,” she said.

Curtis-Whipple said the structured lesson pattern was created because some parents wanted their children to have a format to follow while completing their studies.

The academic work is intended to keep students engaged with learning. They won’t be graded during this period, according to school officials.

“We have also changed the grading period,” Curtis-Whipple said. “The third term will be extended until the end of the school year on June 19.”

Curtis-Whipple said the school district’s most important priority is to support the students’ social and emotional needs amid their concerns during the coronavirus pandemic.

The school district is also providing free bagged lunches at Seach Primary School and Abigail Adams Middle School from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on weekdays.

Some of the food available includes fresh vegetables, milk, whole grain muffins, and cheese sticks, according to Elizabeth Sauro, Weymouth Public Schools food services director.

All students are eligible to receive a free meal under the state and federal requirements of the program.

Curtis-Whipple said 15,000 lunches have been provided to students since the program began March 16.

Additional information about the school lunch program is available online at the school district website:

Curtis-Whipple said the coronavirus pandemic is not delaying plans to construct modular classrooms at the primary schools to accommodate an influx of fifth-graders under a school redistricting plan that takes effect in September.

“The foundation work is being done behind Academy Avenue school

Outdoor recreation still available for Fort Bragg area families – News – The Fayetteville Observer

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.

This content is being provided for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. Please support local journalism by subscribing to The Fayetteville Observer at Follow for more coronavirus coverage.

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! 🌞🛶🌿🌎💚

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“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

Vacation rentals continue despite county’s coronavirus ban | News

With just two known cases, Haywood County is largely holding its ground as a safe have from the COVID spread rapidly enveloping the rest of the state and nation.

That’s made the already popular tourist destination all the more enticing for those fleeing hotspots elsewhere. In hopes of keeping visitors at bay, the county has issued a ban on most overnight accommodations and vacation rentals. 

However, some property owners who rent through online sites like Airbnb have continued to offer bookings, according to a random survey conducted by The Mountaineer.

Many said they were not aware of a ban, a more common response among those who don’t live here and handle rentals from afar.

Carolyn Walker, who has a couple vacation rental units at Lake Junaluska, can’t imagine why anyone would still be taking bookings.

“How on earth could you not know what is going on? How can anyone think it’s OK to be moving around the country right now?” said Walker, who has turned down several reservations since the order came out. “I have been so bothered by people who either just aren’t taking it seriously or who think we don’t have any cases here yet so we are safe.”

There are more than 1,100 vacation rentals listed for Haywood County on Airbnb, and hundreds more on similar online rental sites.

In The Mountaineer’s randomly selected survey of 40 online vacation rental owners, one-third were willing to accept a weekend booking from an out-of-town visitor.

The Haywood County Tourism Development Authority has been doing its best to get the word out. It would normally be launching a spring campaign to lure visitors here, but is now doing just the opposite: telling visitors to stay home.

Informing vacation rental owners of the rules, let alone policing any offenders, is problematic, however.

“It is hard to reach everybody,” said Lynn Collins, executive director of the TDA. “And there are some that are going to do it regardless. The county is very concerned about it.”

A nightly room tax is collected on all vacation rentals, and those in the TDA’s database have been getting regular email advisories. But not when it comes to Airbnb renters. Room taxes on Airbnb bookings come in as a lump sum payment without revealing the identity of the individual property owners, leaving TDA no way of knowing which houses are being rented out or by whom on Airbnb.

Protecting your own

Haywood County isn’t alone. From Colorado to California, tourist destinations have been swarmed with people trying to escape the coronavirus outbreak.

It’s a precarious situation for smaller, rural towns with limited health care infrastructure. There’s just 20 respirators at Haywood Regional Medical Center.

“We would be pushed to accommodate our own county residents much less a bunch of other people coming in,” Walker said.

That reality is one reason Jane Rolen scrambled to cancel her upcoming rental reservations after the ban came down last week, despite disappointing guests coming in for an anniversary celebration the following

Seattle Parks and Recreation news and events

Arboretum, Cal Anderson, Carkeek, Discovery, Gas Works, Green Lake, Golden
Gardens, Kubota Garden, Lincoln, Magnuson, Seward, Volunteer, West Seattle
Stadium, Woodland

SPD and
SPR Crews and Ambassadors Will Be Onsite to Remind Individuals to Comply

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DOH Recommends Individuals to Wear Cloth Face Masks When in Public

SEATTLE (April 9, 2020) –  Because of continued gatherings in major parks and crowded public places, the City of Seattle announced today the full closure of major regional parks this weekend where social distancing guidelines have not been followed by patrons. Seattle is joining major cities like Austin and Los Angeles across the country in closing major parks for the weekend. The change is effective Friday, April 10th at 11pm and parks reopen on Monday, April 13 at 4:30 am.

Data shows that social distancing measures are effectively reducing the transmission rate, but any easing of those measures could lead to a resurgence in transmission. Moreover, all city departments are having to adjust to the impacts that COVID-19 has had on employees, their families and the city workforce. 

“These are the beautiful weather days we
crave all winter, but we are living in unprecedented times and the Governor’s
order isn’t stay out – it’s stay home. Seattle’s frontline medical
workers,  vulnerable residents, and displaced workers need you to stay
home. While Seattle is expecting near perfect weather, friends and families
should not have family or friend outings, picnics or gatherings in parks. Stay
home unless you need to go to an essential job or business.  If you need
to take a walk in your neighborhood, be smart and don’t help create a crowded
place. Too many friends, residents and families are continuing to gathering for
picnics, BBQs, basketball games, and group walks.  Because we still are in
danger of a spike in infections, hospitalizations and deaths we have to keep
doing out part. Easing up on social distancing too early will put more people
at risk, could overwhelm our health care system, and could delay the reopening
of businesses. Stay home, and if you must leave your home, be smart, follow
social distancing guidelines by stay at lease six feet from everyone and wear a
mask” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “Our collective effort has made an impact
flattening the curve, but we must continue or face even greater and longer term

Closing these parks temporarily will
help ensure more people are keeping the distancing they need to from other
people. While our neighborhood parks will remain open, the city will consider
closing them or making temporary closures longer term if visitors can’t follow
safety guidelines. While the City of Seattle has closed parking lots at the
largest regional parks, significant gatherings and disregard for social
distancing have continued.

Seattle Parks and Recreation’s eight
destination parks Green Lake, Lincoln, Golden Gardens, Seward Park, Magnuson
Park, Gas Works, Alki Beach, and Discovery, as well as Cal Anderson, Carkeek,
Woodland Park, Volunteer Park, Kubota Garden, West Seattle Stadium, and the
Washington Park

Vacation-rental agencies asked to halt bookings for Pitkin County, Aspen properties | News

After receiving information that some people recently booked vacation rentals in the area and then sought medical treatment for coronavirus-like symptoms, Pitkin County’s Incident Management Team reiterated on Tuesday that the latest public health order bans short-term lodging.

Those who violate the order could face misdemeanor charges leading to fines and/or jail time. Officials also contacted vacation-rental agencies VRBO and Airbnb to inform them not to accept nonresident bookings of short-term rentals within county boundaries. 

“We’ve gotten some information recently to lead us to believe that there are still some companies accepting short-term rentals and reservations, like VRBO and Airbnb. We’ve issued a letter to both of those companies today to ask that they stop accepting them per the Pitkin County public health order,” said Alex Burchetta, IMT spokesperson and chief deputy of operations for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.

“Specifically, they are not to accept any new reservations and they are to cancel any existing reservations,” he continued. “The intent there is to allow nonresidents of Pitkin County to return to their primary [place] of residence.” 

Burchetta said the county doesn’t have the capacity from a public health and safety standpoint to handle an influx of visitors.

“As much as we love them … we love having you here, but just not now,” he said. 

Being at an elevation of around 8,000 feet puts undue stress on a person’s immune system and health, he said. Small and less-noticeable illnesses can be exacerbated by the altitude. While the area has excellent health care providers and systems, would-be visitors might have access to a wider range of health services within their own communities, Burchetta said.

Section L of Pitkin County’s public health order issued on March 23 states, “There shall be no new bookings or reservations during the pendency of this Order. Furthermore, current reservations for the timeframe anticipated in this Order shall be cancelled for all short-term lodging, including but not limited to hotels, motels, short-term rentals (30 days or less), bed and breakfast establishments, lodges and retreats.”

Burchetta said officials were alerted by Aspen Valley Hospital doctors that nonresidents who recently booked vacation rentals in Aspen sought treatment Monday of “some symptoms” not necessarily associated with COVID-19. 

He said he didn’t know how many people were involved in presenting those symptoms to the hospital. Even if it were just two people who got short-term rentals since the order was issued, “it still represents two too many,” Burchetta said. 

“We started [notifications] with the global short-term rental market” like VRBO and Airbnb, he said. “Pitkin County and the Colorado mountain communities are not a place of refuge as they are most other times of the year. …We don’t have the ability to handle the increased capacity.”

Those who fail to comply with provisions of the order, including the mandate banning short-term vacation lodging, may be subject to misdemeanor charges and fines of up to $5,000 and/or up to 18 months of jail time.

“We’re just trying to reinforce [the order],”