Most New Mexico state parks open, four still closed

Coronavirus New Mexico

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – 31 of New Mexico’s 35 state parks are open for day-use only. A couple of people who like to use Fenton and Bluewater Lake, which are among the four remaining closed, are ready for all the parks to open.

“I understand that quarantine is important right now, but yeah, I do hope that all the parks re-open,” one person said.

“It’s frustrating that we’re locked down and that we really can’t get out and be in nature with all the stuff that’s going on in the country and the world right now and we can’t do it,” Jonathon Gregg, who likes to go camping and fishing, said.

Fenton Lake, Bluewater Lake, Manzano Mountains, and Morphy Lake are still closed. The state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department said Manzano and Morphy are closed because of ongoing construction.

They explained how they decide which park opens when and why bigger lakes like Elephant Butte, Fenton, and Bluewater are among the last to open. A lot of it has to do with getting enough staffing since a hiring freeze delayed getting seasonal employees on board.

“We’re kind of just playing catch-up right now on making sure the seasonal employees are in place and trained in the new protocols that we’re doing,” Susan Torres with EMNRD said. “We have new protocols for taking the fees when people show up at the park and new protocols for cleaning and you know, passing out the personal protective equipment.”

Another big factor in deciding which park would open when was COVID-19 data. Torres said they also tried to spread open parks across the state to keep people from having to travel.

“Where the COVID outbreaks were, where there were maybe potential for outbreaks, so, that drove a lot of it. And, we wanted to make sure people could access the outdoors safely and we didn’t want people traveling all over the state to do that,” Torres said.

Each state park has its own capacity limit, so everyone flocking to one park while others were closed was not a concern. There is no set date yet on when the remaining four parks will reopen or when camping will be allowed again.

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