FRAMINGHAM, Mass. (AP) — Diane Borneo examined a map at Callahan State Park Monday afternoon, while her two young children buzzed around excitedly, eager to start their trek into the nearby woods.
″(We’re here) to get some exercise and a change of scenery,” said Borneo, a Natick resident who works as a teacher in Wellesley. “Just to burn off some energy and they can run free, and (I don’t) have to really worry.”
COVID-19 restrictions mean closed schools, colleges extending spring break, libraries and other public buildings closed to walk-ins, canceled play dates, restaurants turning to delivery-only, and many businesses telling employees to stay home.
Exploring the outdoors is one of the only things left to do.
With the warming spring weather, the Borneos were far from alone in taking to the area’s plentiful trails. Parking lots for trails throughout the region were packed over the weekend.
“Yesterday, we were overflowing with automobiles in the parking lot and along our street,” said Jim Beauchamp, of Cormier Woods, a historic farmstead in Uxbridge with five miles of hiking trails.
Beauchamp and his wife have been caretakers of the Trustees of Reservations property for more than a decade, and said foot traffic last weekend and Monday has been much more than usual, even for the beginning of spring.
“People were out hiking with the dogs and their kids. It was really pretty cool,” he said. “During these times, I think people are trying to get outdoors now and explore the woods and the forest.”
Nationwide, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo waived park fees in his state, while the shelter-in-place issued to seven Californian counties Monday excluded outdoor activities, such as walking.
“It’s one of the safer places to go,” said Jim Vazza, of Holliston, as he strolled along the town’s stretch of the Upper Charles Trail Monday afternoon with his daughter.
Vazza was working from home and taking a lunch break, while his daughter, Gabrielle, is home from Boston College, where classes will be held online for the remainder of the semester.
“I haven’t seen anyone, and I’m probably not (going to) for a while,” 14-year-old Milford High School student Kaylee Whitney said, while on Milford’s stretch of the Upper Charles Trail and fields with her mom and dog on Monday.
The family has been careful to observe social distancing, but the fresh air was a welcome change from staying home.
“I’ve been organizing,” Whitney said, laughing.
Staying away from fellow walkers, hikers, runners and bicyclists on the trails is still a good idea to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but that’s easier to do on the wide-open acreage of local parks.
“I have some good news. Nature is not canceled,” Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Marketing Director Bonnie Combs said Monday. “Fresh air and sunshine are good for you. Just practice social distancing.”
This is a good time of year to get outside, Combs said.
“Nature is coming alive,” she said. “Things are blooming. People can actually hear the birds.”
Along with the cancellation of organized programs, visitor centers across the state are closed, she added, so plan your trip, and be aware of the likely lack of bathrooms.