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There are ways to enjoy fall safely

Outdoor activities offer options to get out during COVID

by Olivia Murray 

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench in the autumn and holiday festivities of Americans. Fear of disease exposure and social distancing guidelines make many people hesitant to engage in activities such as trick-or-treating, apple-picking and family gatherings.

 However, there are still a variety of places that people can visit to get out of their homes and safely experience the beauty of autumn in West Virginia.

Coopers Rock State Forest in Bruceton Mills features 50 miles of trails, canyon overlooks, cliffs for climbing and a lake for fishing, among other attractions. The area also has lodges and cabins for weekend getaways. The park has instituted new vigorous cleaning procedures and social distancing measures.

Valley Falls State Park, in Fairmont, once featured a lumber and grist mill. Remnants of these structures still stand at the expansive, waterfall-centered park. Miles of hiking trails can be found in the area. The gates to the park open at 7 a.m. and close at sundown.

Tygart Lake State Park in Grafton is housed by 391 acres. Its 10-mile long lake is an ideal place for fishing, boating, scuba diving or sightseeing. The park also has pavilions for picnics or socially-distanced gatherings.

All three parks are perfect places to observe West Virginia’s fall foliage as the leaves  display their autumn colors.

Additionally, Orr’s Farm Market, in Martinsburg,  offers everything that defines autumn in West Virginia: Fresh produce, baked goods, meats, jams, mixes and dairy. The market’s products are mostly locally made and produced.

The market also features a pumpkin patch, live music, children’s activities and the chance for guests to pick their own fruit.

The employees of Orr’s Farm Market have brought a series of safety procedures into the market in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a mandatory mask policy, a reservation system for their pumpkin patch, and a limited capacity at events. Curbside service is available through the market’s website.

Katy Orr-Dove, a representative of the business, sees fall 2020 as a time for individuals to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. “I also see people staying regionally located and supporting their local business to try and boost their local economy,” Orr-Dove said.

“I do think it’s important for parents to try and give their families some of the normal fall festivity fun,” Orr-Dove said, “but in a safe environment.” 

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