Outdoor enthusiasts excited for loosening restrictions

Washington state is welcoming people back to some outdoor activities beginning on May 5.

Those activities include fishing, hunting, playing golf and using state parks during the day with social distancing guidelines and restrictions.

“It’s a really wholesome activity,” said avid fisher Ben Hanes. “It’s great to get out with the kids and with my wife. We fish together a lot.”

Hanes founded the group “Let Us Fish” a couple weeks ago to protest state restrictions. In a matter of days, the Facebook page drew hundreds of supporters and currently has a following of more than 3,000 people.

“My son, who loves to fish, I had to hand him a stick so we could pretend like he was fishing,” said Hanes on what prompted him to start the group. “It was kind of beautiful because I was on the boat with him, but it was actually really sad.”

State leaders said safely opening up recreational activities will promote physical activity and mental and emotional well-being.

Some of the guidelines people are being asked to follow:

    The Golf Alliance of Washington has been working with the governor’s office on safely opening up golf courses.

    “We spent a lot of time putting things in front of them that golf courses can do to really provide a social distancing atmosphere,” said Troy Andrew, Executive Director of WA Golf. “Extra precautions which you’ll see already, things like leaving the flagstick in, removing rakes and bunkers, just touch points.”

    Foursomes are allowed if they are from the same household, otherwise it’s no more than two players per tee time.

    Andrew said 75 percent of the state’s golf courses are public, which is a bonus for the economy.

    “It’s one of those things when you don’t want to golf it’s not such a big deal, but when you want to go play and you can’t, it’s a really big deal,” said Dillan Sheppard.

    “Everybody’s got to keep their social distancing and pay attention to that,” said Gordy Taylor.

    Taylor lives near Alki Beach Park and said group gatherings are still happening there.

    “There were more people than there should’ve been down there hanging out on the sand in big groups,” said Taylor. “The police were actually separating them, too, which I think they need to keep an eye on everything.”

    State leaders have warned if public health becomes an issue, then recreational activities will be scaled back again.

    Hanes just can’t wait to cast his line out again next Tuesday.

    “It’s actually the definition of social distancing. When I go fishing, I want nothing more than to be a mile apart from anyone, and the average fishing pole is at least six feet long,” said Hanes. “So unless you’re closer than six feet, you might get whacked pretty hard.”

    Public gathering events, team sports and camping are not resuming at this point.

    The governor’s office suggests checking ahead before heading out to do a recreational activity starting next Tuesday, as some parks and courses may not be open.