IDYLLWILD (CNS) – Federal officials say campgrounds, picnic areas and other sites within the San Bernardino National Forest are now closed to the public until at least April 30 to safeguard against the spread of novel coronavirus.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, the closure order was issued in deference to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s shelter-in-place proclamation urging all individuals not employed in “essential” functions to stay at home as much as possible.

The USFS said “developed recreation sites” are affected by the closure, and those include established camping areas, as well as picnic grounds.

On the Riverside County side of the 677,000-acre preserve, the Pinyon Campground, along with roughly 15 “yellow post” sites that provide individual camping amenities and multiple picnic areas are impacted, according to agency spokesman Zach Behrens. He said most of the large campgrounds were already closed for the winter season and were not slated to open until Memorial Day weekend.

A USFS statement asks people to “keep health, safety and the environment in mind when visiting national forests.”

“Your personal responsibility is critical to ensuring public safety and preventing further restrictions. We ask that you consider whether your personal participation in outdoor recreation at this time would pose an unnecessary risk to others, as we all work together to … slow the spread of COVID-19.”

Violators of the closure order could face fines.

Officials pointed out that trails for walking, hiking and mountain biking remain accessible, but rangers again emphasized the benefits of social distancing — remaining 6 feet from the nearest other person who is not a companion — and no groups in excess of 10 people, per the health directive from Riverside County two weeks ago.

City News Service (CNS)