SUNDAY FEATURE: Trying on the environmental impact of the pandemic in Flagstaff – Arizona Every day Solar

Since March, Flagstaff and the nature that encompasses it have been destinations for staycationers who often visit from southern parts of the state. Between Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regulations and increased tourism, northern Arizona is overwhelmed by those looking to escape to the great outdoors.

Consequences of coveting the land

Michelle Thompson, chief public information officer of Arizona State Parks and Trails, said state parks around northern Arizona have attempted to enforce social distancing — although the capacity to do so is limited. Masks are required to be worn within park buildings where social distancing isn’t possible.

Sedona’s coveted day-use areas along Oak Creek experienced upward trends in land use and litter. Kalai Kollus, executive director of the Oak Creek Watershed Council, said the creek saw an increase in weekly use last summer, specifically among in-state tourists.

“In past seasons, we typically saw this much use over holiday weekends. But we’ve seen this much visitation consistently, almost every weekend,” Kollus said. “Oak Creek is being loved to death.”

Further evidence of an influx in outdoor usage is a high demand for gear. Nick Chlupsa, owner of the Lake Mary Country Store, said fishing gear, for example, was difficult to keep on the shelves. One way that the Lake Mary Country Store matched the increase in customers was by upgrading its rental services. The shop had to purchase new kayaks and boats — not only due to large demand, but to keep up with the wear and tear from constant use.

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