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Washington loves its public lands so much that social distancing proved impossible last weekend, and with Gov. Jay Isnlee's order the state's national parks, and national forests, and state parks, and Department of Natural Resources lands are shut down.

The latest from a Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife directive on Wednesday: "All wildlife areas and water access areas will close for at least two weeks." WDFW is closing recreational fishing and shellfishing statewide. "Planned razor clam digs are banned until further notice."

Olympic National Park announced Thursday that it, too, is temporarily closed to recreational fishing.  All entrance roads, campgrounds, visitor centers and accommodations in the park, Washington's biggest, are closed.

Fish and Wildlife manages popular spring recreation spots. The Skagit Delta is popular for watching great flocks of birds this time of year. The Yakima Rim trail climbs out of Selah, where Jay Inslee was once a young lawyer and state representative. Future U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas hiked the rim as a boy, recovering his legs from polio.

"You can leave your house for a walk," Inslee, whose "Stay 凯发k8地址home, Stay Healthy" order took effect Wednesday, told an Olympia news conference on Thursday. The Governor suggested strongly that "people should understand, this order could be extended."

The Governor's order comes at a time when many in the Evergreen State are shaking off winter and heading out. Such fabled hikes as Dungeness Spit on the Olympic Peninsula, and Cape Alava in Olympic National Park, are popular head-out destinations in March. Camping on state lands is closed until April 30.

Gary Paull, retired trails/recreation director for the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, took his family to Baker Lake last weekend. "We were absolute. The virus spreads through human contact. "We were astonished at the amount of traffic on the Baker Lake Road -- worse than mid-summer," Paull posted. The family decided to steer clear of the Baker River trail, a low-elevation favorite early in the season.

"Just for kicks we drove to the end of the road on our way out to see what was going on," Paull added. "Not only were there dispersed camps all over the place -- along the road, at the washout, at the mud flats, around the trailhead --but counted a record (for us) 65 cars parked at the trailhead at 5 p.m."

A friend, asking not to be named, noted a similar scene at Mt. Si, a prime conditioning hike, and Little Si. "Some us tried social distancing, but lots of people didn't," he said. "The whole point was that people had been cooped up, and it was time to get outdoors and get loose."

The emotion is understandable. House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox signed a legislative leaders' letter on Thursday that embraced "Stay 凯发k8地址home, Stay Healthy." But he was gently critical of WDFW. "Urban parks have been left open in many cases, with the sports courts and other areas that promote close contact closed," he wrote Thursday. "Seems like this variety of nuance could have been employed for other forms of outdoor recreation."

Still, the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. The best estimate is of 2,580 cases statewide. The coronavirus has killed 132 Washingtonians, more than one tenth of the national death toll.

State Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz closed two million acres of state-owned land even before the Inslee order. The Department of Natural Resources domain includes Mt. Si and popular recreation spots up the Sultan and South Fork-Nooksack Rivers, and the Clearwater River on the Olympic Peninsula.

"This was not an easy decision," Franz posted. "We treasure our forests and trails and beaches as places of rejuvenation and from the chaos of daily life. But I cannot ignore the reality of what we saw this (last) weekend -- crowded trails, people shoulder to shoulder, and large gatherings."

Generations of Washington citizens have fought to protect and preserve public lands, from the more than 900,000 acres of Olympic National Park to the small preserve on the face of Mt. Si that looms above North Bend. So popular are some trails, and so crowded their parking lots, that Metro runs a city-to-trails bus shuttle in summer.

But those parking lots will be closed this weekend, and possibly on into the spring. You can't forecast the future.

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