Few people can think of a more innocuous place to visit with children than a state park. These state protected areas are often remote and secluded, and families can find themselves alone enjoying nothing but nature and the pleasure of one another’s company. Though the 2008 murder of hiker Meredith Emerson caused a stir about the safety of state parks, there are relatively few incidents of person on person crime reported in state parks.
No, most people visiting state parks manage to get into trouble all on their own. Here are the few of the ways to virtually guarantee that your next state park visit won’t be the dream outing you planned along with, of course, tips on how you can be a safer, better state park visitor.
Unsafe state park visitors:
1.) Wander Out of Designated Areas – Sites in state parks are designated as camp grounds and trails for a reason. They have been set aside for visitor and they are monitored by park employees. Many state park accidents and incidents occur when visitors wander outside the prescribed boundaries and into restricted areas. Accidents that have occurred include everything from the predictable – drowning while swimming in a dangerous, off-limits river, getting lost in untamed wilderness, or animal attack – to the bizarre, such as wandering into a trap after inadvertently discovering someone’s liquor still or marijuana field. When visiting state parks, stick to the designated areas or be prepared for some scary results!
2.) Fail to Come Prepared – Accidents can occur when people visit state parks without proper food and water, or even car maintenance. Before visiting a state park, plan your itinerary, then check the park’s website or with the state’s Park Service for tips on how to prepare for your outing. Be sure to bring a map if you plan to hike or explore.
3.) Fail to Follow Rules – Camping outside of designated areas, feeding animals, starting a fire, or even driving too fast in a state park can lead to serious trouble. Read the rules at the welcome center or ranger’s station and remember that the rules were made for a reason.
4.) Rely on Cell Phones – Cell phones have become such a ubiquitous part of our lives that we fail to learn what to do without them. But if you get lost in a remote part of the state park, chances are very good that a little plastic device won’t be much help. Don’t do anything at a state park you wouldn’t do (i.e. hiking alone, swimming without a lifejacket, etc.) without a cell phone.
5.) Failing to Inform Friends and Family – No matter how safe and well-patrolled a state park may be, accidents can happen. Tell a family member, friend or park worker if you plan to hike. Instruct them to call authorities if you do not return when you said you would.
Don’t let a trip to the state park end in an accident or injury. If you come prepared for disaster, you’ll usually find that what you get instead is a whole lot of fun.