CHILE: STAGED REOPENING OF NATIONAL PARKS UNDER STRICT HEALTH PROTOCOLS ANNOUNCED
As of today, August 5th, with the reopening of the Alerce Costero National Park begins the step-by-step process of the National System of State-Protected Wildlife Areas (SNASPE) that represent the country’s national parks, national reserves, and natural monuments.
The measure was announced this morning by the Minister of Agriculture, Antonio Walker, who was sided by the Minister of National Assets, Julio Isamit; the Undersecretary of Tourism, José Luis Uriarte, and CONAF’s Executive Director, Rodrigo Munita. The authorities expressed that this process is part of the country’s gradual return to activities, observing the security protocols implemented by the government to prevent potential new COVID-19 outbreaks.
The Head of the Agriculture Department, Antonio Walker, explained that, if an increase in infections is detected or if sanitary steps are not observed, said units may again be placed on lock-down to protect the health of park rangers, visitors, and the inhabitants of the areas where said protected areas are located as well.
“When we are in open areas and take precautions, the contagion has been very low, that is what we are prepared for, that’s what the park rangers are prepared for. All ticket offices will include glass or plexiglass, we have expressed our preference for payment for an admittance ticket is credit or debit cards or some form of electronic payment; no groups over 15 people will be allowed, and ticket offices will mark spots where people will wait,” Walker explained.
The Minister of National Assets, Julio Isamit said “we are going to add to what Minister Walker has already announced, another 62 protected national assets, which are more than 600,000 hectares that will also be open to citizens and families once the districts where they are located move to a deconfinement stage, a transition-preparation stage, or opening already started or in progress stage”.
The Undersecretary of Tourism, José Luis Uriarte, highlighted the announced measure and stated that before the end of the year there will be seven national parks that will include this online reservation system to minimize people contact as much as possible.
“Doing tourism does not mean going very far, it does not necessarily imply hopping on a plane, it can be done in our same region, in our same community, in our territories, with our neighbors and that’s what is treasured in each of the country’s parks. Additionally, we are working along with CONAF to have an online reservation system for the national parks by the end of the year,” Uriarte said.
The authorities also added that the Mocho Choshuenco National Reserve, also in the Los Rios Region, will open on August 15th.
Similarly, CONAF’s executive director, Rodrigo Munita, stated that “the National Forestry Corporation and its team of park rangers, aware of the great emotional, relaxation, and recreation contribution parks provide to our citizens during these difficult pandemic times, have made a huge coordination effort throughout the country, in conjunction with local communities, to safely have available our protected wildlife areas.
Reopening plan details
CONAF initiated a nation-wide project aimed at providing a state-of-the-art platform that allows visitors to visit national parks and reserves online and virtually make reservations and pay for admission, thus facilitating the visit process, making it quicker and safer. This project will launch at the Torres del Paine National Park, parallelly expanding to all Bicentennial Parks: Vicente Pérez Rosales, Conguillío, Alerce Costero, Radal Siete Tazas and Bosque Fray Jorge, as well as Villarrica.
This reopening schedule establishes that during September, for example, the Torres del Paine National Park and Milodon Cave Natural Monument in the Magallanes Region; the Patagonia National Park (Tamango sector), Simpson River National Reserve, Coyhaique National Reserve, and Dos Lagunas Natural Monument in the Aysén Region will reopen.
Visitors will be advised to clean their personal items, such as backpacks, clothing, bottles, among others, before and after the activity. It is mandatory to attend safety presentations and collaborate with park rangers. Additionally, the entrance and ticket offices should have see-through material (glass, mica, polycarbonate, etc.) to separate park guards from visitors. For security reasons, card payments will be preferred, and all tourists will attend inductions on safety steps within the unit.
Jointly, through the approval of administrative measures, the Regional Director may regulate public use, determining the unit’s capacity (quantity), sectors, trails, and infrastructure; and when deemed necessary and to protect the safety of people, to establish the total or partial lock-down of sectors, trails, and infrastructure.
Finally, Minister Walker called to observe safety protocols, such as the mandatory use of masks, social distancing, and taking the temperature of visitors upon entering the premises. “Conaf, through the park rangers, has worked with the surrounding communities to prepare us in the best possible way in two aspects: that the park is well equipped in terms of infrastructure and in compliance with new requirements and protocols that we have to meet to observe health dispositions. And we only require visitors to come in groups no larger than 15 people and under strict self-care in terms of masks, hand washing and distancing.”