During the sheltering at home and social distancing directives imposed in the wake of the COVID-19 coronavirus, many organizations are learning to adapt to what has become the “new normal” to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
Highlands Land Trust Executive Director Gary Wein said this week that while he misses seeing his land trust family in person, he understands the trust’s conservation work must continue.
“We miss seeing many of you on the trails, in our halls and at our programs,” Wein said in a written statement. “We miss seeing your children at our afterschool programs and we miss working alongside our volunteers at our properties. However, we are proud of our community for staying apart physically while coming together in other ways to ensure we all weather this storm the best we can, together.”
Wein said while Land Trust staff isn’t working out of its Peggy Crosby Center offices due to COVID-19 mitigation, the trust’s conservation work continues from home offices and on its properties when appropriate and safe to do so.
“It is essential that we all do our part to slow the spread of this virus and we want you to know the additional steps we are taking to help, besides working remotely,” he said. “We have canceled all of our in-person programming through May 15 based on Governor Cooper’s executive orders to close N.C. schools through this date. Also, all staff, board and committee meetings are being held online only.”
Wein said it’s up to everyone to do what’s best for the community as a whole and follow North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s directives.
“We know that nature is good therapy but we also recognize that it is essential that we all do what’s best for our community and remain physically distant from each other,” he said. “We understand that many public trails have closed due to overcrowding. At this time, we believe our trails have not experienced overcrowding so for now, our trails will remain open.”
While the trails remain open for public use, the Land Trust has made some adjustments in regard to their terms of usage.
“We have posted signage on all our public trails stating a new rule for their use,” Wein said. “Effective immediately: all visitors to our properties must keep to themselves and maintain at least six feet apart from others at all times.”
At this time, Wein added, Land Trust properties are not to be used as gathering places. The Land Trust asks that everyone who wants to use the trails respect the rules and use the trails only to isolate outside.
“We will be installing trail counters on our most popular trails and also asking that if anyone notices any cases of overcrowding at any of our trails, please contact us immediately at email@example.com. Your safety is our top priority.”
The Land Trust’s Spring Awakens series will highlight various gifts of spring and can be found online at www.hicashlt.org.
“If you or someone you know has young children at home while schools are closed, we can help with our new Backyard Explorer series,” Wein said. “Our on-staff environmental educators have been working on simple lesson plans to keep young curious minds engaged and learning about our natural world. All lessons can be downloaded and printed or used straight from your smartphone and all will only require, at most, a few simple items you probably have at home. We are exploring other ways to stay connected so please stay tuned.”