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story.lead_photo.caption Visitors enjoy the view from a Hot Springs Mountain overlook Friday. As part of a phased reopening, the restrooms at the top of Hot Springs Mountain have reopened. - Photo by Richard Rasmussen of The Sentinel-Record

Hot Springs National Park began a phased reopening of some services on Friday, including visitor services outside the Fordyce Bath House, day-use areas at Gulpha Gorge Campground, and restrooms on top of Hot Springs Mountain, with further openings planned for the future.

Jori Welchans, chief of interpretation with HSNP, said the park wants to reopen, and these were the first things they found they were able to bring back to the public.

"We're going through a phased approach," she said, noting they determined these three things could be reopened after "looking at (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and state guidelines."

"We want to open as much as possible," Welchans said.

A news release from the National Park Service said that parking and restrooms will remain closed at Gulpha Gorge, along with the campground.

While the day-use area of Gulpha Gorge is now open, it is only accessible by hiking. "Parking in front of the entrance is prohibited in order to allow for emergency vehicle traffic," the Park Service release said.

Welchans said it "shouldn't be too much" longer before the campgrounds at Gulpha Gorge can reopen to the public.

To reopen the campgrounds, Welchans said they first have to get personal protective equipment. "It's been ordered," she said, but they "have no delivery time" for the equipment. She said a lot of places have put in orders for it, delaying delivery.

The protective equipment will be used by personnel to clean the restrooms in the campgrounds.

Park rangers will be stationed on the porch of the Fordyce from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., she said, and they will be able to answer questions, and will also be handing out Junior Ranger booklets. The park's cancellation stamp will be on the porch so visitors can stamp their National Park Passport.

Welchans said the restrooms on top of Hot Springs Mountain are being reopened because "it is not as heavily used." These are the only restrooms in the park that are currently open to the public.

Other than these changes, "everything else stays the same," Welchans said. As to why they are not reopening the Fordyce, she said the historic building has narrow hallways that would not allow for social distancing.

"Not a lot of space," Welchans said.

The following areas continue to be available:

• Trails, roads, and thermal and cold-water fountains.

• Concession services operating in bath houses and Hot Springs Mountain Tower are open for limited services, according to state and CDC guidelines. "Contact the businesses for hours and services," the release said.

The Park Service said it is working service-wide with federal, state, and local public health authorities to "closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and is using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis."

"We are taking a phased approach to resuming some visitor services in order to slow the spread of the virus. Our first priority is to protect our community's residents, our employees, and our visitors. We look forward to the time when we can welcome all visitors back to fully experience the park," Hot Springs National Park Superintendent Laura Miller said in the release.

Local on 05/23/2020

Print Headline: HSNP begins phased reopening

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