LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Buffalo National River has been temporarily closed to recreational use because of coronavirus concerns.
The move by the National Park Service on Thursday takes effect immediately and follows complaints from Arkansas’ governor and local officials about a large number of people crowding the area during the outbreak.
The closure includes the river, trails, campgrounds and open spaces.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson asked the federal government to temporarily close the river on Wednesday and placed new restrictions on state parks. Arkansas has had at least 625 cases of coronavirus and 10 deaths.
The Newton County Sherrif’s Office sent the following statement to KNWA/KFTA about the closure:
Newton County Sheriff Glenn Wheeler said he was made aware by National Park Service authorities that as of Thursday, April 2nd, the Buffalo National River is closed to all recreational use until further notice.
Highways and County Roads passing through the Park are open but any roads that end in the Park are also closed.
“Myself and Judge Campbell have been in contact with the Park Service for several days, working on this, along with a lot of other people.” Sheriff Wheeler said. “I really hate to see our river closed, but last weekend was a huge strain on our resources and we encountered problems all day long; both days. Most of the people we were dealing with were not our typical tourists. The people that come here because they love the Buffalo River and the Ozarks are usually not problems and respect the area and the people. Last weekend, we were seeing more and more people from areas where the Coronavirus is rampant just looking for a place to get away from it. Our trailhead parking areas were overrun causing people to park on private property and on county roads. There were disturbances and other issues throughout the day as well.” Sheriff Wheeler continued “I look forward to the day we can welcome tourists back to the river, but for right now, this is a good step in keeping our community healthy and easing the burden on the limited resources we have. I appreciate the Governor and the National Park Service listening to our concerns and taking action.”
Newton County officials are waiting on official word from the U.S. Forest Service as to what additional measures they are taking on top of the current campground closures.
Newton County Sheriff’s Office will update information as it becomes available.Newton County Sheriff’s Office