Rock Island State Park has always been a popular destination for visitors. Since reopening in May, the area is bursting with people.
“On most weekends, all parking spots in the entire park are filled up by 11 a.m.,” said Damon Graham, park manager. “Visitors should note that the park is seeing dramatically high visitation since reopening after COVID-19 related closures, especially on weekends.”
The influx is creating issues. Along with frustration from those who arrive at noon to enjoy a peaceful lunch, only to find no available parking, some motorist are illegally parking.
“We are also seeing many cars parking illegally which likely may result in a vehicle being towed,” said Graham. “We are seeing safety hazards due to all the overflow parking, not to mention trampling of sensitive areas. The park was not designed to handle these numbers of cars and visitors.”
Numerous warning citations were placed on vehicles parked along the roadway last weekend.
Park rangers are responding to more medical emergencies and law enforcement calls, due to increased visitation.
“Within the last 10 days, park rangers have made an arrest and responded to multiple EMS calls,” said Graham. “Most medical emergency calls result from falls on rocks and bluffs, attempting to enter areas that are restricted, alcohol-related factors, and being unprepared for the very rugged, hot conditions. It is not uncommon to see visitors in flip flops with toddlers in tow trying to navigate the extremely rugged boulder fields in the river gorge section with the heat index being near 100.”
Also common is visitors attempting to climb up waterfalls, entering very swift-moving water, and trying to access restricted areas by climbing fences – all highly discouraged and dangerous activities.
During one medical call, emergency responders were hindered by vehicles parked on the roadside. That attempt to navigate was captured via cellphone.
“We just ask visitors to use a little common sense,” said Graham. “We want everyone to have an enjoyable park experience but more importantly a safe one for their family. We are suggesting that visitors avoid weekends altogether and even avoid peak hours on weekdays to get a better experience.”
The park is also encouraging visitors to follow CDC guidelines regarding social distancing.