Tips for Social Distancing and the Outdoors

Sunset in the Mobile Tensaw Delta on Kayaks
Kayaking in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta

Adapted by MBNEP for Coastal Alabama from written by Keiko Betcher. Thank you Conservation NW!

While the following recommendations were informed by medical experts, we at MBNEP are not public health professionals. We believe these suggestions are appropriate given circumstances in Alabama at this time, and we’ll make edits or updates as needed. However, Conditions are changing very rapidly. Please stay tuned to the center for Disease Control, local and state elected leaders, law enforcement, and health department for the most up-to-date recommendations and public safety orders. 

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to develop across this country we are deeply saddened and offer our heartfelt condolences to those who are directly impacted by this virus. 

As coastal Alabama communities increasingly adopt social distancing and with restaurants, bars, recreation facilities, and other businesses temporarily closed, it’s good to see how many of our public access points remain open. These include water access sites and boat launches and state, city, and county parks.

Nature can be restorative. It can provide some respite from stressful, busy lives, and for many of us, the outdoors is simply where we’d rather be. So during this time, it’s only natural to desire some time with nature. We encourage it for all of you who are able!

Fresh air and exercise promote both physical and mental health when practiced responsibly. 

If you choose to head outdoors, please take steps to minimize the risk you pose to vulnerable individuals and to our healthcare system. Even while outside, be sure to practice social distancing and proper hygiene.

Suggestions for practicing social distancing in the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic

Please stay home if you’re not feeling well. As tempting as it is to take a short hike, paddle, or bicycle ride, if you are exhibiting ANY symptoms, you could be putting yourself (and others) at great risk.

Meaher State Park Delta Boardwalk trailStay Local

Now is a good time to explore the trails, parks, and outdoor spaces close to home in your community. Traveling long distances to a recreation area increases risks of spreading the virus to other communities (or bringing it back with you). Especially if you are from an urban area, where the virus is quickly spreading. It’s not worth even the small risk that you could spread it to a rural community, where medical services are already scarce. 

Think about what you are hoping to get out of nature and whether you can get it without interacting with other communities.

While in the outdoors, continue to maintain a six-foot distance from others. Be mindful of those around you. If other people have stopped at a vista or viewpoint, give them some space and maybe try stopping there on your way back. If the parking lot of your favorite park looks full, move on to a different one you’ve been meaning to visit. Consider broad beaches or boardwalks, birding at a wildlife area, hiking on gated forest roads, or other outdoor activities that minimize the potential for close encounters on narrow trails.

Bring Your Own Lunch and Limit Stops

Patronizing small businesses and restaurants near your favorite access point is normally a great idea that bolsters the local economy. However, during this crisis, avoid stopping anywhere you will be in contact with others. 

Ideally, bring food from home. If you do stop, consider ordering takeout, and ask if they can deliver it to your car and if you can pay with a card over the phone. Use hand sanitizer before and after exchanging items, and encourage others to do the same. If possible, fuel up at local gas stations before you leave and when returning home. Other ways to contribute to small businesses include purchasing gift cards and shopping with local merchants, but online.

Postpone Group Activities

Choose your adventure partners carefully. Avoid crowds and groups, especially those of more than five people. Pick someone with whom you are regularly in close contact, such as family members or roommates. For now, it’s best to avoid hanging out with friends you don’t see often. Many of our local wildlife areas have good wireless reception, so instead of meeting your friends in person, consider scheduling a video chat so you can share time outside in different locations. 

Don’t Carpool

Most of the time carpooling helps cut down on traffic and prevents filling up parking lots, but it should be avoided for now.

Maintain Excellent Hygiene

Wash or sanitize your hands frequently even when you’re out in nature. Keep yourself (and your possessions) clean, especially while traveling to and from opportunities to be outdoors.

Avoid Risky or Potentially Dangerous Activities

As you go outdoors, take it easy. Hospitals and emergency rooms should be prioritized for those who are sick, so avoid activities that might result in even minor injuries. Also, don’t take your four-wheel drive on a trial run. Now is not the time to be calling roadside assistance in a remote area.

Take Proper Precautions

Enjoying the outdoors is always best done with at least one companion. But if going alone seems the best, or only, choice for you at this time, make sure to take proper precautions by packing all necessary safety equipment and your charged cell phone. Let someone know where you are going, what your plans are, and when they should expect you back. Then don’t forget to check in with them when you get back!

Enjoying nature from your home

For those who are already experiencing the impacts of the virus or don’t have ready access to transportation, check out these resources to bring some of nature’s wonders and restorative gifts to wherever you are.

The Wild with Chris Morgan

Nature Podcasts. 

There are several great podcasts about nature and the outdoors. One favorite is The Wild with Chris Morgan. Chris is a great storyteller and his podcasts make you feel as if you’re there in the wild with him!


The National Wildlife Federation has made their Ranger Rick Magazine free online through June.

Nature Cams

Sometimes the most incredible things in nature are the rarest—and the only chance you’ll see them is on a screen. Now’s a great time to watch some nature documentaries, or check out live-streams of Alabama Coastal Foundation’s Wolf Bay Osprey Cam, videos of brown bears in Katmai National Park, bald eagles and sea otters at the Seattle Aquarium, jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and more.

Discovering AlabamaDr. Doug Phillips on Discovering Alabama

Discovering Alabama is the longest-running and most popular locally produced show on Alabama Public Television. Join Dr. Doug Phillips as he crisscrosses the state bringing the Alabama wilderness to you. Nearly all of the 87 shows can be watched free online. 

Contribute Time to Research

You can also contribute to wildlife research as a community scientist without having to leave your home. Check out some of the nature projects you can assist with on Zooniverse, an online platform for volunteer-powered research in which anyone can participate!

However you go about getting through this tough time, we hope you still get the chance to enjoy your love for the wild while staying safe and healthy.

Other Outside Activities

Walk around the block with a bag to pick up trash. (wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly when you get home!)

Water Rangers App Picking up trash around the block Riding Bikes at McNally Park, Mobile

Download the Water Rangers App (iPhone/Android) and learn how to become a citizen scientist water quality monitor. 

Walk around the block with a bag to pick up trash. (wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly when you get home!)

Check out some of the bicycle routes on

Play a round of disc golf at one of the many local courses you can find on UDisk (iPhone/Android)

Find an access point or boat ramp you’ve never been to on
Posted on 03/19/20 at 12:12 PM Permalink